How do Nations Learn? Why Development is First and Foremost About Learning

ForumAfrica2019_Banner_Web 1140x137px_EN

By Dr Arkebe Oqubay, Senior Minister and Special Advisor to the Prime Minister of Ethiopia 


This blog is part of a series marking the upcoming 
19th International Economic Forum on Africa 


Photo-by-Nathan-Dumlao-Unsplash
Photo by Nathan Dumlao on Unsplash

Policy makers and academics alike puzzle over why some countries achieve economic ‘growth miracles’ while others lag behind. Of the 100 middle-income economies in 1960, fewer than a dozen transitioned into high-income economies. Economic history and empirical observations show that progress is linked to how nations learn and more specifically to the processes of technological learning, industrial policy, and catch-up. By looking at the cases of Japan, the United States, China and Ethiopia, I argue that commitment to learning by governments and dynamic technological learning by firms are key to economic catch-up. How these and other nations learn can provide valuable insight for African countries.

How did Japan overtake Europe in the mid-20th century?

The key driver of catch-up in Japan was technological learning and an active industrial policy. Japan’s learning experience involved the transfer of skills and knowledge, the importation of equipment and the acquisition of turnkey projects to develop technological capability. Japan also developed industrial infrastructure, including railways and the telegraph, by deploying state-owned enterprises. Continue reading

Constructing Schools to Curb Conflict?

By Dominic Rohner, Faculty of Business and Economics (HEC Lausanne), University of Lausanne and Center for Economic Policy Research (CEPR), and Alessandro Saia, Faculty of Business and Economics (HEC Lausanne), University of Lausanne

Eduation-Indonesia
A classroom in Kudus, Indonesia

Armed conflict is a major obstacle to human happiness and prosperity. The most visible consequence of warfare is, of course, the human death toll, leaving millions of families shattered. But below this surface, the grim consequences of fighting go further. The economic cost is very considerable, with the average war leading to a total loss of about 15% of GDP, human capital accumulation is slowed down, inter-group trust is threatened, and psychological suffering and trauma become widespread.1

While academic research on conflict has boomed in recent years, the lion’s share of contributions has focused on factors that are well-suited for statistical analysis but that are difficult to modify by policymakers. In particular, while we know that ethnic diversity, adverse weather shocks and natural resource discoveries play a role in the occurrence of conflict, there are not many obvious policies that can modulate these parameters.

Continue reading

Tracing our roots: Understanding African innovation

Print

By Youssef Travaly, PhD MBA, Next Einstein Forum (NEF) Vice-President of Science, Innovation & Partnerships, and Acting President, African Institute for Mathematical Sciences (AIMS), Senegal


Learn more about this timely topic at the upcoming
18th International Economic Forum on Africa


Africa-digital-technologyCan you name a famous African scientist?

Barely no one can answer this question, even with some thought. And yet, Africa is the cradle of humanity, and therefore logically, the cradle of science and innovation. So why can’t we name any famous African scientists? The simple answer is that we don’t know much about the history of innovation in Africa. The world’s technologically driven human progress can be divided into two parts: the “Africa” time with major discoveries, including tools, fire, mathematics and steel, and the more recent “industrial” read “western Europe and North America” time with major discoveries such as the steam engine, vaccines, antibiotics, computers and much more. In between the two, the world transitioned from more “informal” homegrown knowledge-based innovation to more “formal” scientific knowledge-based innovation. Within that context, Africa’s research and innovation, which often occurs outside the so-called “formal” innovation framework, completely disappeared from the global map of Science, Technology and Innovation (STI). Since then, “playing catch-up” has been the cornerstone of the strategy of every single African nation intending to adopt a knowledge-led economy. But do we really need to catch-up? What does catching up even mean?

Continue reading

Girls’ Leadership Matters!

By Alda, an 18 year old Plan International girl activist from Indonesia


 To mark the 2017 International Day of the Girl today, the author was tapped to serve as Secretary-General of the OECD on 11 October 2017
during a special girlstake over event organised by Plan International.


day-of-the-girlWhen someone asks me to describe an ideal girl, in my head, she is a person who is physically and mentally independent, brave to speak her mind, treated with respect just like she treats others, and inspiring to herself and others. However, I know that the reality is still so much different from what I have in mind.

When I was 12 years old, my friend in school was pregnant. As soon as everyone in her family and school knew, she dropped out of school and I have never heard about her again. Three years later, I attended the wedding of another friend, who was pregnant at the age of 16. I was really confused at her wedding and feeling sad for her because she looked unhappy and very quiet. I imagine that it was a hard time for my friend to accept. After the wedding, she dropped out of school and moved in with her husband’s family.
Continue reading

Building Africa’s entrepreneurial culture

Forum Afrique2017-Visual Identity - FR-3

By Giulia Ajmone Marsan and Jonathan Potter, OECD Centre for Entrepreneurship, SMEs, Local Development and Tourism


Learn more about this timely topic at the upcoming
17th International Economic Forum on Africa
Register to attend


Africa-Idea-[Converted]Over the last decade, Africa has witnessed the emergence of a dynamic start-up scene in some of its countries. The district of Yaba, in Lagos, Nigeria is one example. In Yaba, young educated people are supported by a network of incubators, accelerators and other support facilities. This entrepreneurship cluster has taken advantage of the nearby presence of many Nigerian higher education institutions, such as the Yaba College of Technology, the University of Lagos, or the Federal Science and Technical College for students and facilities.

Another well-known case is the so-called Silicon Savannah in Kenya, a highly entrepreneurial eco-system that has given birth to innovative tech companies like M-Pesa, the worldwide money transfer and financing service operating via mobile phones, and Ushahidi, the well-known crowdsourcing platform. As in Nigeria, some of the universities based in Nairobi, notably the University of Nairobi and Strathmore University, are important actors in this eco-system.
Continue reading

Biases in entrepreneurship and industrial policy in Africa

Forum Afrique2017-Visual Identity - FR-3

By Wim Naudé, Professor in Business and Entrepreneurship in Emerging Markets, Maastricht University, Dean of the Maastricht School of Management, The Netherlands, and Research Fellow at the IZA Institute for Labor Economics, Bonn, Germany


Learn more about this timely topic at the upcoming
17th International Economic Forum on Africa
Register to attend


shutterstock_415121221.jpgAfrica has failed to industrialise. At the same time, millions of young people are seeking jobs. Put one-and-one together and the answer seems to be that if these labour market entrants become entrepreneurs in industry then they can in one stroke create jobs and help Africa industrialise. Yet, optimising the nexus between entrepreneurship and industrialisation requires overcoming some vexing policy biases. These can be categorised as biases of over-estimation and biases of under-estimation.

First, industrialisation’s job-creation potential is often over-estimated. The world is in a Fourth Industrial Revolution (4IR) driven by technologies such as the Internet of Things, automation, additive manufacturing and big data analytics (see Naudé, 2017). These technologies are causing the loss of low-skilled routine jobs, of which Africa has a disproportionate share. It’s estimated that up to 66% of all jobs in developing countries are at risk. Relatively poor African countries such as Ethiopia are at a particular risk of having around 44% of current jobs susceptible to automation. The 4IR is furthermore leading to a ‘re-shoring’ of manufacturing back to advanced economies. This is to the detriment of low-wage labor in African and other developing countries. As Culey (2012) points out: How important is low-cost labor when you don’t actually need labor?
Continue reading

Infrastructure, jobs, good governance: Bringing Africans’ priorities to the G20 table

By Michael Bratton, University Distinguished Professor of Political Science and African Studies at Michigan State University and senior adviser to Afrobarometer, and E. Gyimah-Boadi, Executive Director of Afrobarometer and the Ghana Center for Democratic Development

 

blog 18july_1

Beyond the limelight and the headlines, the recent Group of 20 (G20) summit accomplished an important piece of business by launching the Compact with Africa. The next step is crucial: negotiating the priorities that the compact will address.

One key concept is that the compact is with – rather than for – Africa, implying that it will rely on true partnerships to pursue mutually agreed-upon goals.

With its contribution to a “20 Solutions” document presented to the G20 by a consortium of think tanks, the pan-African research network Afrobarometer is working to ensure that the compact will take into account what ordinary Africans say they want and need.

Continue reading