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Where will Africa want to be in the next decades and what are the key scenarios building? What is going to shape the continent’s future for its transformation? These were the questions panelists dealt with, on Day 3 of the African Economic Conference, which took place in Addis Ababa from November 1-3.
Capacity building in science and innovation were recognized as key drivers of Africa’s future economic sectors, including formal and informal sectors. Panelists outlined policy measures needed, and stressed how Africans will learn and apply science and technology.
As one of the panelists on the theme, Gabriel Negatu, Director of the African Development Bank’s East African Regional Resource Center, observed that “knowledge and innovation will provide many opportunities for Africa, but the impacts shall diverge by country and by sector, depending on investments made.”
He also pointed to other drivers of knowledge and innovation that would shape Africa’s future including governance, democracy, culture, and population profile (youth and women).
In his view, there will be a convergence on the issue of ownership of knowledge and innovation, resulting in commoditization and commercialization of knowledge. “Most innovation and knowledge activities will be IT-based, but some countries will benefit more and some may not.
“Above all, infrastructure technology will be the foundation, and the nature of IT we use will change and affect lives,” Negatu argued. He added: “How we learn and apply knowledge will have a significant role on food security, urban farming, health, service delivery.”
Other panelists could not agree more. The Association for the Development of Education in Africa (ADEA) Working Group Coordinator Angela Arnott noted that there will be a new global decision-making process and Africa will need to have its voice. She talked about a wireless world, creativity and informal and formal sectors – where youth and women will be interconnected.
For her, Africa’s transformation will be realistic if infrastructure technology is developed for the new generation of African graduates. “Knowledge that can be acquired and shared online will be necessary for the next generation, but there is need for enabling environment.”
She also said education will be crucial in every scenario. “I see a region with a dynamic and intellectual youth with high understanding of open society concepts,” she said.
Maddalena Campioni Senior Advisor, Office of the UNAIDS Executive Director, showcased her institution’s different scenarios, which, she said, consider political choices. UNAIDS has developed and come up with two scenarios for the future of Africa: prospecting along the way and the driving forces.
For technology to continue to play a realistic transformational role, other key measures were identified, including strengthening the role of professional and vocational training for youth and women, revamping public and partnerships, improving curricula and, above all, political will.
Organized each year by the AfDB, United Nations Economic Commission for Africa (ECA) and United Nations Development Programme (UNDP), the 9th African Economic Conference brought together policy-makers, business leaders, economics and academics from around the world, and offered an opportunity for participants to reflect on how to use knowledge and innovation for Africa’s economic transformation.