I have recently found interest in research on the growth and economic outlay of China , Japan, India and the USA. I stumbled across a very interesting subject called reverse engineering. According to Wikipedia Reverse engineering is basically the process of taking a device or method then stripping it down to its main constituents to gain an understanding of it then without duplicating the original making your own product that serves the same function. Most people do not realize this but most products we use today are developed as a process of reverse engineering and this has made production of goods and products easier and cheaper by saving thousands of hours of strenuous design. I’ll take the particular example of Japan a global leader in consumer electronics and vehicle manufacturing. I will point out that the Japanese did not invent the motor vehicle, the telephone, the television and a long list of other products but how is it they have Toyota the worlds largest car maker? The same goes for India and China. A lot of people I’ve spoken to on this subject have given me a long list of why we as Africans have not been able to do follow suit and reverse engineer products for our continent like other countries have done. One of those excuses include the common excuse of colonial oppression lack of access to funds, the government, etc..Although some of these excuses make some sense but the bottom line is we have been lazy. as an engineer to be, in a couple of months i am pained but the fact that we are having to give billions of dollars away to the Chinese to build our bridges, network boosters and recently the expansion wing of our power plant in Hwange. This is the sad reality that the country which is churning out thousands of graduates every year(like me) is sending out zombies (sorry for the harsh depiction) into the global world. The first realization of an educated economy is not statistics like 92 % literacy but rather by statistics on local development initiatives concerning local infrastructure development and technology.
Zimbabwe is a large consumer of cellphones, motor vehicles, TVs and other forms of technology which if we were to produce locally more jobs would be created. So without straying from of our subject matter let us see how reverse engineering can be a useful tool to kick start innovation in Africa.
Most of the technology we need has either been invented or exists in some form , lets take the simple illustration of a calculator. The calculator as a device is of quite simple design, if we could have our electronics scholars dissect the components of a calculator and learn the role of each in the device by the time we send them out into the world as graduates wouldn’t they be able to make their own version based on those basic principles and they could even call it “Fundo” and mass produce it locally, that goes for watches, TV screens, processing plants etc.Imagine if we could cut our own diamonds,process our own gold and manufacture our own coffee then sell them as finished jewellery and even our cars what impact that would have on our economy wouldn’t we be talking of a GDP of US$35 225 per capita like japan?
Since we have failed to innovate cant we through our education system, our own intuition and desire for excellence work towards mastering such ideas then adapting them to suit our needs. I have two friends one is a blogger and the other is a musician. The musician studies music at college, looks for trends in music and every single day looks for and applies techniques used in the global music industry into his own writing and one thing I’ve noticed about him is he DOES NOT COPY, he analyses,understands,learns and adapts, which is the important aspect of this article- do not copy learn, understand and adapt.He is now currently working on improving the quality of his sound by setting up a state of the art home studio as he works on his Debut Album as an artist and i got to thinking why cant we come up with designs to make our own studio equipment in Zimbawe, develop our own our marketing sites and electronic marketing platforms.
My second friend is a blogger(https://www.facebook.com/sirmcpotar), he researched on the power of the internet,graphics, the significance of blogging since then has over one thousand likes on Facebook, an article in a local news paper and keeps growing from strength to strength. A mentor engineer to me once asked me what are my plans were after graduation, and I told him I want to get a job so I can drive a car like his, the expression on his face changed and he said, ” The same problem my generation had has been handed even to you guys, you are so ready to be employees rather than business owners”. He went on to say “Every month my department spends so much money on bearings and spares non of which are made locally, even imagine if that money was to be supplied to your company you’d even drive a better car than the one you are yearning for. The last piece of advice he gave me on that day was if I were to work, I should work to learn and understand and be a better engineer to my country. Since that day I feel somewhat inspired to look at the world differently and if i fail to pull through myself let me get it out there such that more people like me can try increasing the chance of break through, once the idea has broken through then it will be a matter of time.
On the side of industry we have a lot of consumables that are on demand, from bond paper,to machinery spare parts, to light bulbs. The demand is there and is growing and if we sit back and watch other countries are flourishing because of spending patterns why not have other people wanting to buy our products. The road is long and there are a lot of other factors besides taking a product and disassembling it but if that can be the main idea in our minds that we want to bring technology home and be the ones that carry out quality work on projects in our country then its a start. let us send students to America, South Africa, Japan so they they can learn how they are doing it and enable the rest of us at home to do it. Sir Isaac Newton once said “If I have seen further, it is because I have stood on the shoulders of giants“, let us then use the same spring board and see beyond what the giants like China, Japan, India and the USA have done so that we can be our own giants.
I welcome any more examples, additions and critical critisims to this articles.
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