Sustainable Development in Africa & Satellites - page 120

118 - Sustainable Development in Africa & Satellites
t was the British wartime leader Sir
Winston Churchill who once remarked
that “the empires of the future are
the empires of the mind”. By this he
meant that knowledge and ideas would
be the great factors deciding the fate of
nations. International society in all its
ramifications – technology, economics
and the structure of world politics –
has been transformed beyond what Sir
Winston would have recognised in his day.
In the last two decades alone, science and
technology have occupied a prominent
sphere globally, driving phenomenal
growth in international trade and
enhancing improvements in information
and telecommunications technologies.
Exponential growth in knowledge has led
to worldwide increases in output growth,
creating unprecedented opportunities as
well as challenges.
The forces of globalisation and technology
have created an integrated global market
in which capital, finance and information
travel at the speed of light. For the first
time, human civilisation is approaching
what the French political thinker Maurice
Duverger has termed ‘the society of
abundance’. The paradox, however, is that
poverty continues to afflict over a billion
people in our planet, most of them on the
continent of Africa. It is also clear that our
hydrocarbon-based industrial civilisation
cannot sustain the biosphere as we have
always known it for millenniums.
Among the ancient West African people
of Guinea, it is said that “Knowledge
without wisdom is like water in the sand”.
In our divided world, leaders need all
the wisdom they can marshal to solve
the critical challenges posed by Climate
Change and the imperatives of long-term
sustainable development for present as
well as future generations.
Sustainable Development’s imperatives
Sustainable development, which is ‘the
ability of present generation to meet
their obligations without compromising
the ability of future generations to meet
their own need’, involves the generation
and application of knowledge for efficient
management of ecological and human
resources for the long-term improvement
of the social and economic welfare of the
population. Technology (including space
technology) and associated scientific
information and knowledge, is clearly
one of the vital ingredients for promoting
accelerated economic growth, social
change, governance, poverty reduction,
and, indeed, enhanced livelihoods.
Africa is arguably the richest continent on
earth if judged purely by the magnitude
of natural resources endowments. The
paradox, however, is that it remains the
poorest region where wars, conflicts
and poverty have imposed a heavy
toll on vulnerable populations. The
accumulated wisdom of the last five
decades of world development makes
it clear that possession of natural
resources in itself does not translate
into improved human welfare. Of course,
some progress has been registered
in a good number of countries. In my
own country of Ghana, for example,
the restoration of democracy and the
consolidation of good governance
is spurring growth and expanding
opportunities for the vast majority. The
youth of Ghana are becoming more
confident and more forward-looking
about the future of their country. For
much of Africa, what is needed is a strong
institutional environment combined
with a stable economic framework in
which knowledge, skills and human
ingenuity flourish. Crucially important
is the need for economic diversification
and structural change so as to enhance
the value-added of raw materials for
domestic and world markets while
enhancing jobs as well as wealth-
It is evident that the lack of technological
technological policies that optimise local
knowledge and resources remain a major
The empires of the mind
Freight train, ‘École d’Art au village’ of Bangui (the Central African Republic). In 2006 the
African Union called for ‘the development of the railway industry and the establishment of an
African wide-area inter-connected railway network’. The African Rail Union (ARU) has presented
a guide plan.
© Sébastien Cailleux/EDAAV
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