Knowledge as Chief Currency for Reaching Modernity in Africa


Knowledge, particularly scientific and technological, is the chief currency and the essence of modern age. It is also a strategic resource and a lifeline for escaping traditionalism and reaching modernity in the African region. The implementation of this vision requires more efficient development knowledge as an infinitely expandable resource. This knowledge - an infinitely expandable resource - can support more knowledge-intensive development and needs to be mined, harvested and promoted. Its expansion - a truly revolutionary phenomenon - and its increasing role in development are changing the nature of African societies as well as their place in the international knowledge order.


A better grasp of this knowledge and of the foundations, structure and characteristics of African Knowledge Societies (AKSs) - a concept that goes beyond the prolongation of the information or digital society - is necessary for formulating policy issues and directions, upgrading anachronistic knowledge bases and accelerating the transition from largely pre-modern (knowledge-deprived and unsustainable) AKSs to fast progressing ones.


The nature, content and architecture of these AKSs can be conceptualized as diverse assemblages of a few basic, partially overlapping and competing ancient, medieval and modern macro knowledge systems. This conceptual framework enables the articulation of policies for sustainable development - a non-African myth stemming more from the excesses and ‘collateral’ damages of modern development than the problematic non-developing traditional societies.


The myth of modernization, supported by scientific, technical and business knowledge, sustains relatively successful development of almost half of Africans, particularly the well-connected, entrepreneurial and opportunistic urban fringes.  It emerges largely from freeing the power of probing against traditional forms of thought. This must be encouraged throughout AKSs to remove obstacles for modern knowledge generation, acquisition and diffusion and transform an inefficient pre-modern knowledge edifice into an efficient one. On the one hand, ancient and indigenous knowledge is sustaining the subsistence of up to a quarter of Africans. It is geared more toward the past than the future. < xml="true" ns="urn:schemas-microsoft-com:office:office" prefix="o" namespace="">


Traditional knowledge is effective for reproducing and enhancing ‘stationary’ societies but not sufficient for profound structural transformations and development. Some pre-modern knowledge may constitute irrelevant relics of long-gone societies that hold back development. On the other hand, religious medieval knowledge is capturing and confining the minds, and hindering the development of too manyAfricans. This knowledge provides sound ethical bases for sustainable development but also engenders insidious obstacles to knowledge advancement.


Evangelical and Qur’anic knowledge is amongst the most powerful ‘soft’ knowledge ever fashioned by humans but it lacks a set of critical values for knowledge-based sustainable development, such as democratic governance, fundamental freedoms, gender equality, a concern for nature and the future, and a focus on life before death – all necessary conditions of knowledge-enhanced sustainable development. Vigorously promoted by a pervasive physical and human infrastructure (not exactly a fountain of fresh knowledge), this knowledge, under certain conditions, constitutes virtual owners’ manual for one’s life, especially for Africans-of-one-book - dwarfing development knowledge promoted by development organizations.


In this context, knowledge-driven development must be pursued more forcefully to narrow the growing knowledge divide, which will not be achieved in large parts of AKSs without a profound reform of knowledge. Such a reform must be promoted for a prosperous and sustainable Africa, which must be practiced in the 21st century as aggressively as Africans pursued the myth of the independent Nation-State in the 20th century.


Knowledge pursuits must better serve sustainable development. For this, AKSs must seriously take up the tremendous knowledge challenges they face. They must invest massively in knowledge to:


  • improve the social soil and environment on which it grows,
  • keep abreast of knowledge development,
  • set in motion dynamic knowledge-creating processes,
  • reduce knowledge deficits,
  • free knowledge from impurities,
  • strengthen knowledge infrastructures and institutions,
  • fight knowledge obsolescence,
  • increase knowledge performance.

 All in all, AKSs must embark on a new adventure and realize a knowledge Renaissance for knowledge-led development and for reaching modernity.