Opinion: Here’s how, why and when we can achieve a knowledge based economy

knowledge based economy

“Not inventing, and not adopting new ideas, can itself be both dangerous and immoral.”

― Matt Ridley, The Rational Optimist

The growth and development of nations has come to hinge on the creation of breeding grounds for the free mating and birth of ideas. The biggest sins of nations in our generation include inhibition of inquiry, stifling of innovation and trifling with education. These are sins the Nigerian citizenry is all too familiar with. Our seemingly innocuous norms tend to facilitate the inhibition of inquiry, the idea of “obey first ask later”, the general disdain for “excessive” questioning, the preference for hypocrisy as opposed to constructive criticism all play a role in keeping the status quo and shutting up “noise makers”. The degradation of our governmental institutions has made our nation a literal gas chamber for innovation where the poisonous gases of corruption and a lack of due process kills most attempts at innovation and in cases where ideas don’t meet their maker, their execution is far below the real potential. Inaction is the Nigerian policy on education, our government willfully ignores its importance, trifling with our main competitive advantage – our teeming, young, vibrant population. Somewhere along the line we abandoned the ideals of our visionary leaders of the past, our universities have remained stagnant, stuck with an old glory and faced with an existential crisis, the best thing about our universities these days is the stories our parents cherish.

Industrialized nations have taken concerted steps towards promoting a knowledge-based economy. African nations like ours need now more than ever to begin to take strategic steps towards a knowledge-based economy. According to an article on the role of innovation and knowledge, progress towards a knowledge-based economy is driven by four elements: human capital development, knowledge generation and exploitation (R&D), knowledge infrastructure. As a nation, our most important natural resource is our people, while many developed countries are struggling with the burden of an aging population, we are blessed with the energy and drive of a young and highly vibrant population. We need to invest in the development of our human capital, our educational institutions need to be equipped to meet the needs of the 21st century. No longer can we make do with inaction, it’s a sin against our people and posterity will not forgive us for this grave iniquity.

The promotion of a knowledge-based economy is very much dependent on the policies of the land. However, policies are a result of a convergence of interests, ideas and institutions. Institutions include, the norms that govern our behaviour and influence our choices. As a citizenry, the seemingly minute steps we take to facilitate a knowledge-based economy can go a long way in influencing policy. From encouraging the sharing of ideas on human capital development to making the need for educational reform our clarion call and the subject of our civil society coalitions, we can do a lot with little. The active engagement of the citizenry in its development has a track record of facilitating policy change and sustainable development. Engaging the citizenry in our part of the world tends to be perceived as a very long run approach that yields minute fruits, we have been bred to be very jaded about the potency of our voice and our potions of passion. Past failures have become a foundation upon which we have a built passive present, we seem to forget that our failures can be our knowledge bank and an import part of our growth process.

In developing a knowledge base, we need to draw on the wealth of information our past failures provide us and let that serve as our springboard. We begin with dinner table conversations on mechanisms for knowledge sharing and creation, then we move into our communities and share ideas on creating knowledge infrastructure, then we move into our boardrooms where these ideas can find a breeding ground and become a cardinal part of the corporate social responsibility initiatives of our thriving private sector. As a nation, our religious institutions are integral to our way of life. These institutions must play their part in encouraging the art of questioning, developing programs that facilitate knowledge sharing; not just theology-based knowledge but technical and professional skills. As individuals we need to proactively engage in knowledge sharing and facilitate the process of developing knowledge infrastructures in our communities. All over the developed world, an openness to inquiry and an investment in the creation and sharing of knowledge continues to propel growth and development. Governmental reform may proceed at a snail pace that tends to breed weariness but for us as a citizenry, the time to start is Now.

According to the UN population projection, among the ten largest countries worldwide, Nigeria is growing the most rapidly. Consequently, the population of Nigeria, currently the world’s 7th largest, is projected to surpass that of the United States and become the third largest country in the world shortly before 2050. In addition, over 50% of Nigerians are under the age of 35. For a country like Nigeria, investing in knowledge is very much a do or die affair. An increasing number of research in economic development suggests that the ability to create, distribute and exploit knowledge is central to competitive advantage, wealth creation and better standards of living. In an article on investing in knowledge, the authors explained that, investing in knowledge has become the best strategy to increase the productive capacity of capital goods, labor and natural resource inputs, and it is considered one of the main catalysts of the deep transformations in the structure of modern economies and also a strategic engine for long run growth.  As a citizenry, the drive for knowledge creation, distribution and utilization should be one of our core values, from individuals to families and communities we need to propagate norms that facilitate learning both formally and informally. When we embrace a knowledge-based system, we empower ourselves and create a niche for our unique brand of innovation.

“Knowledge is power. Information is liberating. Education is the premise of progress, in every society, in every family.” – Kofi Annan

Op–ed pieces and contributions are the opinions of the writers only and do not represent the opinions of Y!/YNaija

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