AFRICA NEEDS TO GROW THE KNOWLEDGE ECONOMY
The new economy is the knowledge economy. Hollywood in Los Angeles California grosses over USD10 billion a year. That is twice the annual budget of Zimbabwe. Their product is entertainment. They have managed to derive economic value from knowledge. In 2013, Nollywood grossed over USD800 million. Nollywood is the colloquial name for the Nigerian film industry. Africa needs to follow this two examples and invest in the knowledge economy. The knowledge economy is not restricted to movies alone but also includes music, drama, podcasts, television etc.
The agricultural revolution was the mechanization of food production to ensure food security. Although we still have starvation in some parts of the world including Africa, the developed world has largely resolved food scarcity. They get food from their own fields and through imports from around the world. Sadly, some of that food is coming from countries whose citizens are starving. The farmers in those countries prefer to export their products because they get a better deal and also get foreign currency. Unfortunately, the foreign currency eventually benefits the country that prints the currency as the farmers seek to import machinery and luxury goods items.
Again the western countries experienced an industrial revolution which made them the manufacturers of the world. The developing world has been a market for foreign products since then. As China has industrialised, third world countries have also become a dumping ground for low-quality Chinese products. The Chinese have a spectrum of quality in that they also manufacture some of the best products on the market. The problem is that the African markets prefer the cheaper low-quality product. Africa has failed to fully industrialise and now caught between the agricultural, industrial, and the new information revolutions.It is difficult to implement all three to the highest standard. how do you begin to come with policies that ensure that all three are catered for?
Information technology has been gathering pace in the last 20 years. The internet has evolved from static web pages and chat rooms to rich graphic user interfaces, audio, and video streaming. Most social media platforms now allow for video streaming by practically anyone with a social media account. The internet has placed the destiny of individuals into their own hands. Virtually anybody with a smartphone and an idea can build a personal brand and accomplish their goals.
I think that Africa needs to embrace information technology in order to build a knowledge economy that can become an economic driver. We do not need to do any more than we are already doing. we just need to start documenting our activities. These activities include music, movies and drama, radio, television, and new media such as YouTube videos, and podcasts. The content we produce can be consumed around the world at a cost to the consumer. We also need our Ph.D. graduates to publish research papers and register patents for new products. We are educated to the point of paralysis but there are ways that we can grow the knowledge economy away from social media commentary.
The Zimbabwe music industry has seen the introduction of Urban Grooves and Zim-Dancehall. I think that if the media industry becomes more liberalized, we may see growth in the entertainment that could drive economic growth and development. A lot of young artists has been growing persona; brands on social media but they need a more strategic business plan to monetize their content.
Social media is the new television and artists need to understand how they can leverage their personal brands to generate passive streams of income.