My last post talked about the governance of abundance, put forth by Professor Juma as a means of thinking about development in Africa. In April this year, the World Bank reported that it would finance 19 new Centers of Excellence in West and Central Africa. The purpose of these Centers would be to create hubs for specialized study in fields related to Science and Technology, Agriculture and Health. The World Bank announcement focuses on the need for graduates in this field in order to retain some of the economic benefits of oil and mineral extraction (with a brief mention of lack of health workers). We could also view this initiative as a means to incentivizing the governance of abundance rather than a governance of scarcity.
The World Bank focuses on the scarcity of skilled workers in Africa, as does a more recent Inside Higher Education blog. Yes, the continent does not have quality, skilled workers in Science and Technology but it does also have a huge amount of natural resources that require a cadre of skilled labor to manage effectively. This sounds like it is just semantics but actually reflects a different way of looking at the same problem. In his seminal book The Strategy of Economic Development, Hirschman argues that the “fundamental problem of development consists in generating and energizing human action in a certain direction” (p.25); i.e. better decision making can have positive effects on a country’s development. Therefore, in my opinion, investing in the development of skilled labor is a great start and reflects the global emphasis on creating a knowledge economy. However, at a more local and regional level, an emphasis on improving the processes of decision-making, for example by improving management practices or reducing corruption, can also play a very important role in promoting development on a national and regional level. For example, the Association for African Universities can play a very important role in bringing together the learning from these Centers of Excellence project, so that countries in the region can continue to learn from each other in order to continue to contribute to regional development once World Bank funds are all gone.