Knowledge has always been central to development, and it is especially critical for the future of the Arab world. The CMI’s Knowledge Economy (KE) program is designed to mobilize the interest of different stakeholders who are engaged in the process of building knowledge economies in the Arab world, and in the Mediterranean, in particular.
To cope with the daunting challenges they face, particularly the need to create jobs and to develop more productive economies, Arab countries would do well to embrace a strategy for a knowledge- and innovation-driven economy. This is the theme of Transforming Arab Economies: Traveling the Knowledge and Innovation Road (World Bank 2013), a report developed by the CMI, together with the World Bank, the European Investment Bank, and ISESCO.
The study addresses three key questions: Why should countries in the Arab world make the move to a knowledge- and innovation-driven economy? What would that move entail? And how should it be carried out? It places these issues in a suggested integrative framework that includes developing more open and entrepreneurial economies, preparing a better-educated and highly skilled population, improving innovation and research capabilities, and expanding information and communication technologies and their applications. It exhorts policy makers to adopt new policy agendas and a new type of open mindset that can lead to the creation of more jobs of higher value in a rapidly connected and globalized world.
Given the diversity of the Arab world, the study does not provide a cookie-cutter approach but rather offers examples from within the region, as well as from countries from Finland to Korea that have put in place effective strategies to maximize the use of knowledge, innovation, and technology. Patience and determination will be required, because the fruits of investments in knowledge may not begin to appear for a few years.
Putting this type of approach to work in any country requires a vision and strategy on the part of each country in the region. Fostering greater integration within the Arab world and around the Mediterranean would be a key booster for this approach. This is where the Center for Mediterranean Integration can add value. CMI is a place for dialogue, a place where all stakeholders—from governments, academia, the private sector, and civil society—can engage in open exchange on how to make an effective transition to the knowledge economy.
CMI’s work in this area revolves around two main areas of engagement:
1. Publication and dissemination of Transforming Arab Economies: Traveling the Knowledge and Innovation Road. The report is being launched at a high level event, organized together with the Islamic Scientific, Educational and Cultural Organization (ISESCO) in Rabat, Morocco, on June 4-5, 2013.
2. Country-based consultations and action plans. The program is engaging in consultations at the country level to mobilize policy communities and development partners around the new development model. It has already done so with Morocco and Tunisia in April 2013, and consultations on Egypt are currently under development.