Modern society involves the transition of a new era: the transition is partly brought out through the use of cultural tradition, and through the production of new ideas and the invention of new techniques. The latter may be appropriated and adapted from outside a given culture in addition to what can be acquired from within the culture itself by way of exercise of the academic, evaluative, and adaptive capacities.
A sustained interest in science is important for at least two reasons. It would provide an stable base for a real technological evolution at a time in the history of the world when the dynamic connections between science and technology have been recognized and made the basis of equal attention to both: technology has become science-based, while science has become technology-directed. The second reason, relative to the first, is that the application of science to technology will help improve traditional technologies.
Ideally, technology, as a cultural product, should take its rise from the culture of a people if it is to be accessible to a large number of the population. For this reason, one approach to creating modern technology in Africa, as elsewhere, is to improve existing traditional technologies whose development seem to have been underdeveloped in the traditional setting because of their very weak scientific base.
Traditional technologies have certain characteristics that must be featured in the approach of developing modern technology in Africa. Traditional technologies are usually simple, not highly specialized technologies: this means that large numbers of people can participate in the use of technologies, as well as contribute to their development; but it also promotes local technological awareness. The materials that are used are locally available (palm kernels and table salt, for example, are readily available household items) and the processes are effective. Traditional technologies are developed to meet material or economic needs: to deal with specific problems of material survival. They can be seen as having direct connections with social problems and as being appropriate to meeting certain basic, however, one could acquire skills without understanding the relevant scientific principles. The food technologist is a good example. The lack of understanding of the relevant scientific principles will slow down the improvement exercise itself. The other factor relates to the need for change in certain cultural habits and attitudes on the part of technicians, and other practitioners of traditional technologies. Practitioners of traditional technologies will have to be weaned from certain traditional attitudes and be prepared to learn and apply new or improved techniques and practices. Some old,...