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SciDev.Net hosted an online debate on 24 April. Over the course of two hours, experts from across Africa discussed the myths, risks and rhetoric surrounding the continent’s knowledge economy.

In the twenty-first century, the shift in the world’s most economically advanced countries away from traditional manufacturing and service industries towards economies driven by knowledge and information has accelerated.

The Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development says this has led “to a new focus on the role of information, technology and learning in economic performance”.

In recent years, many African economies have been growing rapidly, stimulating talk of a new era of  ‘Africa rising’, yet the continent still predominantly relies on natural resources for its income.  How can Africa catch up in the new global knowledge economy, while ensuring that the poorest on the continent are not left behind?

To accompany the debate, we published a collection of pieces exploring different perspectives on this topic: a feature providing an overview of the issue and two opinions by African science champion Paul Boateng and innovation pioneer Mariéme Jamme

  • Debate questions: 

  • What does the knowledge economy mean for countries across Africa?
  • Is Africa catching up in the global knowledge economy or falling further behind?
  • How far have African countries created the necessary environment for a thriving knowledge economy?
  • Does the emphasis on the knowledge economy downplay the importance of manufacturing in adding value to knowledge?  
  • Is increased global interconnectivity just exacerbating the digital divide?
  • Will the poorest benefit from the drive to become internationally competitive?

The debate was hosted in conjunction with the Planet Earth Institute and follows on from a roundtable debate on the same issue that will be held in London in the morning. 

The discussion took place in the comment section below. Please log in below and add your comments and questions on the thread.

We  cross-posted questions via Twitter (@scidevnet) using #knowledgeAfrica.

Gibril Faal

Gibril Faal is interim director of the Africa-Europe Development Platform. He is also a director of UK-based GK Partners, which advises socially responsible businesses and social enterprises. Last year, he cochaired the 2014 Global Forum on Migration and Development.

Pelly Malebe

Pelly Malebe is a junior researcher at the Agricultural Research Council in South Africa. She is also a member of the Regional Initiative in Science and Education. She was interviewed by SciDev.Net here.

Tebello Nyokong

Tebello Nyokong is a professor at Rhodes University, South Africa. She was appointed to the UN Secretary-General’s High-Level Panel on Technology Bank for Least Developed Countries and has received a L’Oreal-UNESCO award for Women in Science.

Cosmas Milton Obote Ochieng

Cosmas Milton Obote Ochieng is the executive director of the African Centre for Technology Studies (ACTS). ACTS is an African think-tank working to find ways to harness applications of science, technology and innovation for sustainable development in Africa.

Brian Omwenga

Brian Omwenga is a PhD candidate in computer science at the University of Nairobi, researching the tech innovation ecosystem in Africa.

Afua Osei

Afua Osei is co-founder of She.Leads.Africa, an organisation that supports female entrepreneurs who have the potential to create large enterprises in Africa. She is also a management consultant advising large-scale public and private sector organisations on strategy and operations.

Gituro Wainaina

Gituro Wainaina is an associate professor in the School of Business, University of Nairobi, Kenya, and the acting director-general of Kenyan development programme Vision 2030. This government initiative aims to transform the nation into a “middle-income country, providing high quality of life to all its citizens by the year 2030.

Nick Ishmael Perkins

Nick Ishmael Perkins is the director of SciDev.Net. Nick has worked as journalist, media trainer and project manager for many years in Sub-Saharan Africa, South Asia and the Caribbean.  

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