Knowledge and Technology Flows, Globalization and African Development


Knowledge flows and the globalization of knowledge have been extremely important for African development throughout history, as it has been for any continent. African knowledge spread across all continents and knowledge from other continents flowed into Africa. For instance, the Romans, Greeks, Persians, Turks and Arabs brought some of their knowledge into North Africa more than two thousand years ago. Arabs and Chinese brought oriental knowledge to the West Coast of Africa for centuries by means of trade. Indonesians colonized Madagascar and brought their knowledge with them.


In terms of development knowledge (Philip’s, 2002):


  • cow technologies originated from the Middle-East (circa 9000 Before Christ Era ~ c. BCE);
  • knowledge and related technologies of wheat, barley, sheep and goats were introduced into Africa (c.6000 BCE);
  • horses were introduced into Africa from Palestine (c.1700 BCE);
  • dromedaries were introduced into Egypt (c.250 BCE);
  • camels were introduced into the Sahara desert (c.100 BCE).


African production of iron reached:


  • Meroë (c.580 BCE),
  • West Africa (c.500 BCE)
  • East and South Africa (c.400 BCE).


Knowledge and production technologies of:


  • rice, cotton, mango, bean, cress, lettuce, muskmelon, onion, pea, radish, rhubarb, spinach, cucumber, endive and orange originated from Asia.
  • bush bean, cucumber, kidney bean, corn, eggplant, potato, sweet potato, cassava, tomato, pumpkin, groundnut and tobacco originated from Central and South America.
  • sprouts, cabbage, leek and parsley originated from Europe.


Modern technological knowledge (electricity, telephones, roads, airplanes, military, etc.), administrative knowledge and knowledge of international languages, etc., came to Africa from Europe.


Today, knowledge is entering the region through a variety of mechanisms, including the Internet. The globalization of knowledge and technology is as important today for Africa’s development and any continent for that matter, as it has been since ancient times.  Capacities to assimilate alien knowledge and technologies have always been at the center of development processes, even in the most innovative societies.