India’s knowledge economy, lessons for Zambia


ON TUESDAY April 10, 2018, India’s President Ram Nath Kovind visited Zambia. During his visit, Mr Kovind held bilateral talks and signed a number of memorandum of understanding (MoU) between the two countries with his Zambian counterpart, President Edgar Lungu.
Zambia and India have enjoyed cordial bilateral relations spanning many years. Zambia’s founding President and one of the country’s nationalist leaders, Kenneth Kaunda also drew inspiration from India’s freedom struggle icon such as Mahatma Gandhi during our country’s liberation struggle.
Since Zambia’s independence in 1964, India has proved to be a reliable partner and friend and has been described by many of Zambia’s past and present leaders as an “all weather and time-tested friend”.
This can be attested by Mr Kovind’s recent visit to Zambia, which is one of the many high level visits that have characterised the two countries’ historical bilateral relationship.
The two countries’ relationship continues to be driven by mutual respect and is based in a spirit of partnership for mutual benefit.
Thus over the years, India has continued to provide both economic and technical assistance to Zambia and supports the country in imparting a wide range of skills development courses and training programmes to many Zambians. For instance, in terms of education, the Indian government avails a number of training opportunities to many Zambians through scholarships such as the Indian Technical and Economic Cooperation (ITEC).
Many Zambian students and professionals have been trained in India in various disciplines under ITEC.
Further, India is one of the major contributors to Zambia’s economic growth, with substantial private investment in the country by Indian companies in sectors such as mining, infrastructure, manufacturing and pharmaceuticals.
Zambia is also host to a large and thriving business community of Indian origin who have also played a significant role in Zambia’s economic and social development. India’s investments in the country include Zambia Indo-Zambia Bank (IZB), which was established in 1984, as a joint venture between the Government of Zambia and three Indian public sector banks (Bank of India, Bank of Baroda and Central Bank of India).
Each venture contributes 20 percent share capital with the remaining 40 percent contributed by the Zambian government, held by the Industrial Development Corporation (IDC).
Today, India continues to provide significant opportunities in development for Zambia. Through strategic partnerships in the areas of information and communication technologies (ICTs) and skills development, Zambia stands further to benefit from India’s fast-growing ICT sector and human capital development through skills training.
For instance, through the Digital India Programme launched in 2015, India’s government has the vision to transform India into a digitally-empowered society and knowledge economy.
The programme has three vision areas namely, digital infrastructure as utility for every citizen, governance and services on demand and digital empowerment of citizens by bridging India’s digital divide.
Similarly, such a programme is also in tandem with the Smart Zambia Initiative which the Zambian government launched in 2015 to embrace ICTs and promote e-governance through public service delivery as one way of transforming the country and accelerate sustainable development.
With a youthful population constituting 36.7 percent of the total national population (according to the 2010 Census Report), Zambia has a huge potential to stimulate economic development by leveraging its strengths in human capital, skills development and ICT services through appropriate investments and policies in sectors such as higher education and ICT.
It is evident that emerging economies such as India are maximising the use of ICTs and skills thereby triggering a knowledge-driven economy. However, it must be noted that the knowledge economy is not only restricted to high-tech, or the ICT sectors, but are also characterised by economies that leverages the existing knowledge to improve overall economic productivity across industries and human development.
Knowledge economies have mostly been driven and sustained by substantial investments in higher education research and ICTs, innovation and specialised skills in the production and dissemination of knowledge for economic growth.
For instance, other advanced economies in Asia such as Japan, South Korea, Singapore and China are good examples of countries that have successfully shifted from traditional agricultural economies to knowledge-based economies.
Many scholars have further argued that although efforts to promote knowledge-based economies is not the same across different countries, they nonetheless require strong, coordinated government policies with investment in ICT including universal, affordable and high-speed broadband connectivity, better education particularly in higher education and skills-focused training and a culture of research and innovation.
Therefore, a fast-growing economy such as India provides a good opportunity to enhance cooperation with other developing countries such as Zambia in sectors such as education, research, science, technology and innovation to create employment and reduce poverty. Moreover, the attainment of Zambia’s long-term objectives as outlined in the Vision 2030 of becoming a “prosperous middle-income country by 2030” requires the increased skills in the use of digital technologies in business, industry, commerce, education, research and innovation. This is because knowledge is now increasingly being recognised as a fast driver of economic productivity and growth which is leading to a new focus on the role of ICTs, skills, creativity and the utilisation of intellectual capital in economic development across the globe.
The author is a social commentator and blogger.

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