Producing Knowledge for the Benefit of Future Generations

The Angola Business School (ABS) has been the past two years a strength for innovation and qualification of the Angolan staff. When I visited Luanda last month, during the delivery ceremony of diplomas, I was amazed to realize the size and impact of the activities of ABS: Over the last year more than 800 Angolan professionals from diverse backgrounds have the opportunity to participate in a wide range of training programs.

Today I want to seize this chronicle to present the younger brother of ABS, the knowledge center NOVAFRICA. Sharing with ABS the same willingness to contribute actively to the development of Angola, NOVAFRICA aims to create scientific knowledge appropriate to the African context in management and economics. It is in the context of a school with local implementation as ABS that the production of this knowledge can best be communicated to staff in the private sector and other Angolan institutions to contribute to making a difference to the sustained economic development of Angola.

A story with impact – and potential assessment

An exemplary story of an idea for development with impact on the ground is the “mobile banking” in Africa. Launched in Kenya in March 2007, the experience of M-Pesa program was a huge success: in about 2 years, 40% of the adult population (over 8.5 million Kenyans) had been registered and used the service to transfer about of 3.7 billion dollars (10% of Kenyan GDP). Currently it is estimated that about two thirds of Kenyan households using M-Pesa, not just to make money transfers cheaper and immediate (overcoming geographical barriers and convenience), but also to pay for wages or services, or make purchases in security without using physical cash.

The fact that the phone is now so widespread in African populations generates indeed a potential for use far beyond simple speech. The technology of mobile banking is a good example of this potential: it will bring access to financial services fringes of the population until now excluded from this access. This marginalization can happen for these populations are isolated in rural areas where the investment by traditional banks would have an uncertain return, but can also happen with segments of the urban population less educated and with more informal occupations.

NOVAFRICA center is currently working with the state-owned operator of mobile telecommunications in Mozambique (mcel) on an assessment of the impact that this technology can bring to the economy. Through pilot studies with relative small dimension, we seek to understand issues of interest to the operator and to traditional banks. In particular, we evaluate not only the success of mobile banking product itself along the rural and urban micro-entrepreneurs, but also the potential of this strategy to fruition entry in financial literacy and consequent access of these populations to the traditional financial system.

This type of impact assessment is a good example of the activities that the NOVAFRICA center develops. We believe that in this way we can contribute to increase the welfare of the people by helping to choose strategies based business enterprise and other activities that promote economic development.

Events to fruition knowledge

To promote economic development, is not enough to write scientific articles. Yes, it is an essential first step that the most recent economic techniques help us to choose which economic policies, tested on a small scale in the field, have more potential to be replicated in large-scale development and production. But it is no less necessary that this information be shared with policy makers and the Angolan society so that they can decide how best to implement this information.

It is with this purpose that the center NOVAFRICA, together with ABS, is preparing a series of events in Luanda. First, a seminar series that will bring to Luanda international experts on issues of interest to Angola. For example, following conversations taken recently with several Angolan entities, we identified a strong interest in issues related to urban planning, construction and planning. We are therefore preparing a workshop on the topic to be held in Luanda in the coming months.

Another example of the events that we are organizing in order to publicize and promote discussion of development policies is the cycle of NOVAFRICA annual conferences. With direct transmission and simultaneously to Angola, Mozambique and Portugal, these conferences aim to bring together international experts in economic development policies – both academics and their partners who formulate and test the viability of these policies, as policy-makers who choose the way these policies can be implemented. It is our goal that this meeting of the various actors in the process of economic development in Africa, to be held in Luanda in 2013, together with all other activities NOVAFRICA and ABS, can promote the welfare of present and future generations of Angola. I hope I have the opportunity to witness the realization of this vision with you.


Written by Cátia Batista, Assistant Professor of Economics at Nova School of Business and Economics and Executive Director of the Center NOVAFRICA