Kurt April, Professor of Leaderhip and Management at the GSB, was recently in Windhoek, Namibia on the request of Namibian Prime Minister's Office to address the Namibian Chamber of Commerce and Industry and senior government leaders on "Innovation in the Knowledge Economy" as well as to moderate the event?s panel discussion.
Namibian Prime Minister Nahas Angula at the event proposed the development of technology intensive sectors for Namibia in its quest to transform the economy into a knowledge-based one.
"This gathering should address the issue of innovation driven growth because knowledge-based economies are driven by innovation and competitiveness. The question is, is Namibia innovative and competitive for a knowledge-based economy or are we just dreaming about it? If we want to put ourselves on the right path, we need to confront the challenges head on,' said Angulo.
He cited the quality of a conducive economic environment, productivity enhancing investment and the pace of technological innovation as serious issues to be discussed to put Namibia on the right path.
"The quality of economic environment is enhanced through stable macro-economic environments, institutional integrity, openness and transparency, property rights, the rule of law as well as political stability. Namibia can be proud that its economic environment is second to none. This condition creates the opportunity for other growth enhancing elements to be developed,' he argued.
He also intimated that challenges lie ahead for the education and health sectors to deliver.
"In particular, the institutions of higher learning have a crucial role to play in the imparting of relevant knowledge and skills.
However, it is issues such as national readiness for the penetration of technology, national capacity for technology adoption and adaptation, technology transfer and absorption and the national ability for specialised research and development that need to be addressed as a matter of urgency,' Angula, who urged a stronger public/private sector partnership, suggested.
According to him, the public sector should create the necessary framework and environment for technological readiness.
Guest speaker Professor Kurt April of the GSB told the gathering that innovation in the economy encompasses a broad field.
"Innovation is definitely not entrepreneurship, repeating what others have done by creating new inventions. Innovation exists on many levels such as originality in creating things, which the world gets excited about. To achieve this, networking and cooperation are prerequisites.
That?s where the challenges of a country like Namibia lie,' said April, who expressed the wish for the University of Cape Town to go into partnership with the Namibian government?s Vision 2030.
In his view and experience of Namibia, there exists a need to leverage knowledge locally and not from abroad.
"The danger exists that industries can be taken away from countries if they are not continually innovating their economies, because things change very quickly in economies. Joint ventures with other countries for economic development are plausible as long as such ventures are not exploitative in nature and are being aligned with the national goals of countries. We give licenses to partners to operate in our countries, but not to our own detriment,' April said.
This article uses extracts from a feature in New Era magazine.