Divergent Paths of Actors and Policy Learning: A Comparative Study of the Oil Palm Systems of Innovation in Malaysia and Nigeria
Abiola Adebowale, Boladale O.
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Fifty years ago the two regions and the two tropical countries under study were rural peasantries with low living standards. On the one hand one set of countries have advanced into export-oriented manufacturing industries with a strong base of technological capabilities while the other has remained largely agrarian societies with low technological capabilities across most sectors (Lall and Pietrobelli 2002). In the export of what was Africa’s comparative advantage much ground has now been lost to Asia in the export of traditional African agricultural products like palm oil, coffee and cocoa (Oyelaran-Oyeyinka, 2006). Oil Palm is indigenous to Africa but a borrowed technology to Asia. Malaysia: often viewed as a country that evolved from dependence on tin and rubber to export-oriented manufacturing dominated by electronics assembly. But the commodity that took the country to the technological frontier is palm oil. Oil palm is now a major pillar of Malaysia’s industrialization. Malaysia overtook Nigeria as the world’s leading exporter and producer of palm oil in 1966 and 1971 respectively (Gopal 2001). Malaysia now accounts for about half of the world production of palm oil and has evolved from simple cultivation and crude oil processing to become the industry’s leading innovator, controlling the industry’s value-added chain.