Washington DC, October 7, 2010 – Knowledge has become the major driving force of economic and social development. Coupled with globalization and accelerated by the rapid distribution and transfer of knowledge, this development impacts all countries and regions
The concept of the Knowledge Economy has now entered the mainstream of economic policies for many developed and developing countries. According to the World Bank Knowledge Assessment Methodology, for a knowledge economy to thrive in a country it needs four pillars: a sound economic and institutional regime; education; information infrastructure; and, an innovation system.
Tunisia is leading the way in the Middle East and North Africa region, embracing what it takes to develop a knowledge-based economy which will help the country better use its strong human capital to enhance productivity and growth.
This is the message conveyed by World Bank President Robert B. Zoellick, Tunisian Prime Minister Mohamed Ghannouchi, and World Bank Regional Vice-President for the Middle East and North Africa Dr. Shamshad Akhtar during the conference “Beyond Recovery: Tunisia’s Knowledge-Based Approach to Long Term Growth and Job Creation” held in Washington DC on October 6, 2010.
Transitioning to a knowledge-based economy presents many challenges: ensuring that the education systems respond to the needs of the job market; investing in research and development; innovation by the private sector; Internet use; technology adaptation; and creating knowledge-intensive jobs.
“The challenge now for Tunisia (…) is to accelerate the structural transformation of its economy, intensify the sophistication of production lines, increase productivity, and generate sufficient numbers of skilled jobs,” said Zoellick.
Ghannouchi added that Tunisia has “to shift from a growth model driven by competitiveness based on the massive use of low skilled labor force to a model of growth driven by innovation and highly qualified labor force.”
Reflecting on the challenge to the wider MENA region, Akhtar noted that “to exploit growth opportunities, the region must move into high value-added activities in both manufacturing and services.”
All agreed that fostering a knowledge economy is a complex, long-term task and there is a need for a continued focus on improving the environment for entrepreneurship and innovation. In the case of Tunisia, this will necessitate enhanced competition in markets and regulatory reforms that will bring about higher levels of private investment and allow the private sector to flourish.
Role of the World Bank in Development of Knowledge-Based Growth Strategies
Professsor Jorma Routti, of CIM Creative Industries Management & Helsinki University of Technology, Finland said, “Research and development, creativity and innovation as well as higher education are key elements in the transition towards a knowledge economy. The World Bank and the World Economic Forum have linked these developments with competitive ranking of regions and countries.”
The World Bank’s main contribution is in strengthening the fundamental elements of the knowledge economy by catalyzing capital and policies through a mix of ideas and experience, expanding the frontiers of thinking about policy and markets, developing private market opportunities and supporting good governance, spurred by financial resources.
Akhtar also outlined the role of the Bank in developing knowledge-based growth strategies with some examples:
- The Bank has launched work to assess the demand for infrastructure in the region. Preliminary assessments are that the region would need almost $75-100 billion in infrastructure investments.
- Under the aegis of the Arab World Initiative, the Bank with support from Tunisia has sponsored a High Level Conference on the knowledge economy with support of the Islamic Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization. Algeria, Morocco, Saudi Arabia and Qatar are engaged in similar attempts with World Bank support.
- Arab Ministers of Education issued a Doha declaration to launch a regional endeavor to improve the quality of education