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SA launches book on development

by Michael Appel
on 18 Mar 2008
BuaNews Online
BuaNews Online

The importance of creating a knowledge-based economy, retaining skilled professionals and using technology as an education tool, has been highlighted by the launch of the Knowledge for Africa's Development Book.

"Knowledge has become perhaps the most important factor in determining the standard of living - more than land, tools, and labour," said Science and Technology Minister Mosibudi Mangena at the launch of the book on Monday.

He explained that in 2006, the first Knowledge for Africa's Development Conference was held in South Africa, encompassing the Department of Science and Technology, the World Bank, and the Finnish government.

The goal of the conference was to initiate dialogue aimed at empowering African policy and decision makers in the formulation of strategies to promote knowledge-based economic growth on the continent.

"It is now common knowledge that global knowledge flows are becoming a key economic driver of economic development.

"These flows encourage the surge of new ideas and enable domestic innovation to be better exploited globally," he said.

Mr Mangena explained that in order for a country to enter the global market which has become increasingly competitive through the globalisation phenomenon, comprehensive and suitable Information Technology (IT) infrastructure must be in place.

"The starting point for economic development in the information age is the existence of a suitable IT infrastructure. Many people see the internet as a consumption tool - a means of recreation, information gathering and shopping.

"Economic development practitioners know that IT infrastructure is a production tool. Advanced information technologies do not only make businesses more productive and efficient; they also expand their markets," the minister said.

The department is currently working together with Finland's government on two projects aimed at strengthening the South Africa national system of innovation, and the other is how to utilise information communication technologies (ICTs) for economic and sustainable development.

Dr Mmantseta Marope, the World Bank's acting Country Manager said: "In our knowledge gateway role, we, as does the whole world, acknowledge and recognise Finland's success in transforming itself into one of the world's most competitive Knowledge Based Economy's (KBE), having started from a natural resource based economy like many of the African economies."

She highlighted that among the key successes of Finland has been its ability to develop one of the world's finest education, training and skills development systems.

The importance of equitable provision of quality education to all and investing in teachers has paid large dividends as Finland continues to be the highest ranked country on annual competitiveness indices

Finland's Ambassador to South Africa, Heikke Tuunanen explained that his country underwent its worst economic recession in the 1990s and was forced to transform itself from the resource based economy that it was, producing mainly paper and pulp, to today's most advanced Knowledge Based Economy.

According to the Knowledge Economy Index 2006, Finland is the world leader with South Africa ranked half as well as the leaders.

Most African countries did not score well and between 1960 and 1987 it is estimated that Africa lost a third of its professionals to developed countries.

Some 23 000 academics and 50 000 middle and senior management personnel leave the continent every year.

More than 40 000 Africans with PhDs now live outside of the continent adding to what is commonly referred to as "Africa's brain drain". - BuaNews

Compiled by the Government Communication and Information System

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