For its dedication, details, and policy implications, this submission from a staff of the ECA [Economic Commission for Africa in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia] should receive the 2004 USA/Africa Dialogue Award. Because of its notes, I am sending it as an attachment. If you have problems do please let me know. It is 54 pp. long--the problems of Africa will not be solved by watching television, sleeping, drinking and eating pepper soup, but by critical engagement with ideas and the pains and joy that come with their implementation.
Do please allow me to give the paper a longer introduction for the benefits of our diverse audience.
Download Paper here
Dr. Hamel was born in Canada in 1948. He received his degree in engineering (Un. Laval, Canada), a "Suficiencia" in Spanish (Malaga, Spain), and higher studies in business management (MBA - Paris) and economic planning (Ph.D.- London School of Economics (LSE), London). He has 24 years of experience in science and technology policies and programs, project management, and strategic planning of industrial and technological development in industrialized and in developing countries. He has extensive international knowledge resulting from a stay of twenty years abroad and travels in 123 countries. He is presently working as a Scientific Affairs Officer at ECA assisting member states in formulating and implementing science and technology policies, building capacities in science and technology, promoting regional and international cooperation in science and technology,and fostering coordination and harmonization in science and technology for sustainable development in Africa. He is also leading a team on ESTNET - the ECA Science and Technology Network. Prior to joining ECA, Dr. Hamel
worked in science and technology policies in Canada for twelve years.
What is the paper trying to say?
This long document claims that African economies have been involuntarily drawn into a knowledge race in which they may turn out to be losers in the absence of adequate knowledge, development and governance strategies. Not enough effort is being made to emphasize the centrality of knowledge for sustainable development and to face the challenge of creating vibrant and competitive knowledge societies in Africa.
1. How can Africa "emphasize the centrality of knowledge" in an anti-intellectual environment?
2. Can't some areas and groups (like the Yoruba) build an economy by "selling knowledge"? In other words, why should they be dependent on things from the land instead of things from the brain?
Abstract: Knowledge may be the chief currency and the essence of modern age. It can also be a strategic resource and a lifeline for Africa's sustainable development, which requires the acceleration of economic growth, the rehabilitation of the resource base, and the realization of a Green Revolution. These are core conditions of sustainable development. Indeed, sound environmental management, poverty reduction and food security are among the critical mainstays of sustainable development, incorporating vital elements of JPOI and key MDGs targets - in themselves a workable vision of sustainable development. The implementation of this vision requires more efficient development knowledge as an infinitely expansible resource. This knowledge can support more knowledge-intensive sustainable development and needs to be mined, harvested and promoted. Its expansion - a truly revolutionary phenomenon - and its increasing role in development are changing the nature of African societies and their place in the international knowledge order. A better understanding of this knowledge and of the foundations, structure and characteristics of African Knowledge Societies (AKSs) - a concept that goes beyond the prolongation of the information or the digital society - is necessary for formulating policy issues and directions, for upgrading anachronistic knowledge bases and for accelerating the transition from largely pre-modern, knowledge-deprived unsustainable AKSs to fast progressing ones. The nature, content and architecture of these AKSs can be conceptualized as diverse assemblages of a few basic, partially overlapping and competing ancient, medieval and modern macro knowledge systems. This conceptual framework enables the articulation of a knowledge policy for sustainable development - a non-African myth stemming more from the excesses and 'collateral' damages of modern development than from the problematic of non-developing traditional societies. The myth of modernization, supported by scientific, technical and business knowledge, sustains relatively successful development of up to half of Africans, particularly the well-connected, entrepreneurial and opportunistic urban fringes. Modern knowledge remains well below world standards but is improving. It emerges mainly from the release of the power of questioning against traditional forms of thought, which must be encouraged throughout AKSs for removing obstacles to modern knowledge generation, acquisition and diffusion and for transforming an inefficient pre-modern knowledge edifice into an efficient one. On the one hand, ancient and indigenous knowledge is sustaining the subsistence of up to a quarter of Africans and is geared more toward the past than the future. It is effective for reproducing and enhancing 'stationary' societies but not sufficient for profound structural transformation and development. Some pre-modern knowledge may constitute irrelevant relics of long-gone societies and may be holding back development. On the other hand, religious medieval knowledge is capturing, confining the minds and hindering development of up to another quarter of Africans. This knowledge provides sound ethical bases for sustainable development but also engenders insidious obstacles to knowledge advancement. Indeed, Evangelical and Qur'anic knowledge is amongst the most powerful 'soft' knowledge ever fashioned by humans but it lacks a set of critical values for knowledge-based sustainable development, such as democratic governance, fundamental freedoms, gender equality, a concern for nature and for the future and a focus on life before death - all necessary conditions of knowledge-enhanced sustainable development. Vigorously promoted by a pervasive physical and human infrastructure - not exactly a fountain of fresh knowledge, - this knowledge, under certain conditions, constitutes virtual owners' manual for one's life, especially for Africans-of-one-book, dwarfing development knowledge promoted by development organizations. In this context knowledge-driven sustainable development must be pursued more forcefully to narrow the growing knowledge divide, which will not be achieved in large parts of AKSs without a profound reform of knowledge. This paper proposes such a reform for a prosperous and sustainable Africa, which must be pursued in the 21st century as aggressively as Africans pursued the myth of the independent Nation-State in the 20th century. Knowledge pursuits must better serve sustainable development. For this, AKSs must seriously take up the tremendous knowledge challenges they face. They must invest massively in knowledge to improve the social soil and environment on which it grows, keep abreast of knowledge development, set in motion dynamic knowledge-creating processes, reduce knowledge deficits, free knowledge from impurities, strengthen knowledge infrastructures and institutions, fight knowledge obsolescence and increase knowledge performance. They must embark on a new adventure of knowledge and realize a knowledge renaissance for knowledge-led sustainable development.