25 years away from a globalised knowledge based economy
European Union University Teacher Development Advisor, Professor Roy Du Pre has compared Botswana’s current economy to that of many European countries post World War II.
The professor, who recently addressed Botswana Sectors of Educators Trade Union (BOSETU), said the country desperately needs to play catch up to become part of a globalised knowledge-based economy.
Du Pre warned that Botswana has to move quickly and find an alternative to diamonds and other minerals.
“We need to move from a resource-based economy to a knowledge-based one. We need to be using knowledge to generate value. We can’t wait for the diamonds to run out before finding an alternative. There’s only one alternative, and that is knowledge,” stressed Du Pre urgently.
The professor explained that after WWII there was drastic transformation in the way the economies of the world began to develop.
“In the late 60’s, after rebuilding their torn cities, governments focused on finding jobs for everyone. However, in the 70’s they then realised that people lacked skills to perform and the focus shifted to capacitating people,” he said.
Continuing his theme, Du Pre revealed that in the 80’s the global economy relied on capital and technology whilst the 90s ushered in the innovation era and the beginning of a knowledge-based economy.
According to Du Pre, research shows that in the 21st century, 90% of all countries’ income will come from innovative and entrepreneurship based on knowledge.
“In Botswana, where 50% of youth are unemployed, the emphasis is still on finding employment for everyone. This was a global economy in the sixties,” he reflected somberly.
“So in someway, the country is still in the 60’s-70’s as far as the global economy is going. We are about 20 to 25 years away from a knowledge-based economy and we don’t have that much time to be a part of a knowledge economy. We have to achieve that in a few years,” continued Du Pre.
The professor told the attentive educators that a key concept of a knowledge-based economy is that knowledge and education are treated as business products or business assets.
He reiterated that a country which seeks to become part of a globalised knowledge economy has to produce a new generation of knowledge workers.
“We need to start at the schools, to begin to train and develop a cadre of students with the ability to create a knowledge economy,” he advised.
Acknowledging that the Ministry of Education has already set this change in motion by modifying the curriculum in Faculty of Education from being teacher focused to student focused, he said, “Today, as I speak, all Degrees at University of Botswana are in OBE (Outcome Based Education) format.”
Professor Du Pre added that the calibre of graduates from higher learning institutions is critical in driving this change.
“We need graduates who’ll be able to work with entrepreneurs, innovate that knowledge, sell it and create a knowledge economy.”
He stressed that for all this to be possible there needs to be a political will to drive such a change.
He said a country needs to strengthen its capacity for hi-tech training, increase post-graduate and research output and establish support systems of innovation.
Du Pre gave the example of Singapore, a country which was a mere ‘fishing village’ after WWII with zero GDP.
“They made a conscious decision that they won’t be a fishing village forever. They focused on development, built an impressive innovation centre and today, Singapore’s GDP stands at GBP200 billion.”