High level meeting on development information in Africa opens in Addis Ababa


Addis Ababa : A high-level meeting on development information opened here Tuesday with a call to tap into the emerging knowledge economy to tackle employment challenges in Africa.

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In his opening address to the fifth Committee on Development Information (CODI-V), Abdoulie Janneh, the Executive Secretary of the Economic Commission for Africa (ECA), said the continent cannot ignore the basic fact that the knowledge economy is key to long term growth.

“Do we have the requisite skills base, the right workforce or what is now termed ‘knowledge workers’, that can lead this continent into the knowledge age and economy?â€? he asked.

However, he pointed out that there were dangers associated with rising numbers of knowledge workers, according to a press statement from the ECA, which is hosting event.

Not only could these workers be lost to countries where the knowledge industries were more advanced, but also the demand for less-skilled employees could be at risk, he said.

“Africa could again be disadvantaged, aggravating unemployment problems and reducing the human resource capacity to support its homegrown and meaningful knowledge enterprises,� he said.

“To avert this, African countries need to create the means by which they can utilize their skilled workforce, and address how the existing workforce can be re-skilled to meet new challenges.�

“The future of employment creation in Africa’s knowledge economy depends on what actions we take now,â€? Janneh stressed.

Other speakers noted the importance of “embeddingâ€? information technology to keep up the growth momentum in Africa. This was particularly important for promoting e-health – a fundamental opportunity to boost medical care on the continent.

The keynote speaker, Prof. Yaw Nyarko of New York University, noted that Africa was well placed to take advantage of the knowledge economy to propel the continent forwards, because of two important factors.

Africans, he said, were enthusiastic about education, vital for the sector’s development. And secondly, there was the legendary entrepreneurial spirit which was well suited to individualistic knowledge economy activities. He stressed that Africa should not miss out on the technological revolution.

In the course of the week-long meeting, four CODI sub-committees will look at the knowledge economy and employment issue from the perspective of data, geoinformation, libraries, and information and communication technology (ICT).

The meeting — which brings together government experts, practitioners and observers — will then assess the status of the knowledge economy in Africa and call for recommendations to boost employment in this sector.

Ultimately, it will set the agenda for the ECA’s two-year programme on ICT, Science and Technology for Development.