The City of Marseille, the World Bank Group and the Institut de la Méditerranée have launched an annual conference series on knowledge and development in the Middle East and North Africa (MENA).
Opening the first Knowledge for Development Forum in Marseille on September 9, World Bank Vice President Jean-Louis Sarbib said, “This conference is the first in a series that should help countries in the region and those on the northern shores of the Mediterranean think together about how to take advantage of the benefits of the knowledge-based knowledge economy while avoiding the pitfalls of globalization.”
Attended by nearly 150 participants from 20 countries, the Forum brought together government officials, academics, technical experts and civil society and private sector representatives working to harness the region’s human and social capital and steer economies in the region in the direction of high value-added productive activities that could serve as an engine for economic and social development.
While MENA countries invest a higher proportion of their Gross Domestic Product (GDP) in education than other regions, the payoff in economic and social development has not been commensurate. This is partly due to the lack of an economic and institutional framework that fosters entrepreneurship and innovation.
Research by the World Bank Institute, the knowledge and learning arm of the bank, has shown that it is of critical importance to put in place such a framework, as well as a high-quality education system adapted to the needs of the modern labour market; a dynamic information and telecommunications infrastructure accessible to all sections of society including the poor; and an innovation system, underpinned by openness in society, the free exchange of ideas and internal and international dialogue, that would link universities, research centers and businesses to create new products and services in the region.
Participants also noted that allowing Middle Eastern and North African women to utilize their capabilities—who make up a large number of university degree holders yet are largely excluded from the labour market—would be of critical importance.
“Growth alone will not suffice to put the region on the path of sustainable development. Human capacities, male and female, must be addressed holistically, together with knowledge,” affirmed Sarbib.
Noting that human capacities flourish best in knowledge-based societies, World Bank Vice President Jean-François Rischard said it was important to support initiatives to build knowledge economies in the region. “It is encouraging that pioneers in the knowledge sector in the MENA region have had the opportunity to meet in Marseille with their external partners and lay the groundwork for cooperation on knowledge-based initiatives. Knowledge is an area on which Europe and the countries on the southern shores of the Mediterranean can work together for mutual benefit.”
To this end, the Knowledge for Development Forum will meet for the next two years to take stock of progress, address further challenges and discuss opportunities for cooperation. — (menareport.com)
© 2002 Mena Report (www.menareport.com )