Is Malawi transforming into a Knowledge Society? By Gift A. Kadzamira

A Knowledge Society (KS) is economically revolutionary as it promotes the free flow and distribution of information and knowledge which is necessary for growth and innovation. This in turn, provides organizations not only with new market opportunities, but also stimulates cultural change and the ability to build learning organizations. (Quast, 2012). A KS values the creation, dissemination and effective use of knowledge, and has the institutions, infrastructure, norms, social interactions and culture that support it.  Its socioeconomic development is more dependent on and determined by knowledge rather than traditional factors of production such as land, capital and labour.

To graduate into a KS, focus must be placed on the interconnection between the knowledge structures and Information Communication Technologies (ICT) infrastructure through the three pillars namely; Education; ICT; and Science, Technology and Innovation (STI).

However this is not without challenges and how then can Malawi  address these challenges for us to move from an agriculture-based economy into a knowledge-based economy?


By and large, education presents opportunities for empowering people with knowledge, skills and confidence needed to shape a better future. A highly educated population is a crucial resource for building a KS.  We need to continue on a journey of lifelong and life wide learning which enables one to flexibly respond to change and pro-actively develop competences and thrive in collaborative learning and working environments. Education should not just be limited to formal education in traditional structures as is the case at the moment. We should encompass the broader societal learning which is necessary for development.

It is also common knowledge that STI plays a significant role in a country’s economic development. STI is a key contributor to poverty reduction, health care, environmental conservation and development of the KS, through its ability to solve problems and initiate and sustain economic growth.

Actually, the difference in levels of development between developed and developing countries is mainly attributable to the difference in science and technology investment, and extent of generation and application between the two groups of countries.  It is based on this realization that the Malawi Government has embraced Science, Technology and Innovation as one of its nine development priorities. It is also on the same premise that Government established the National Commission for Science and Technology, and the Malawi University of Science and Technology (MUST), among other initiatives to facilitate a national innovation system that will enhance competitiveness.

However even though Malawi has a Science  and Technology policy, the innovation aspect is nonexistent so much so that innovations are being done without any guiding frameworks; a development that needs to be looked into.

There is also a need to create triple and multi helix relations for the industry and citizens to have a role to play in the national information system.

In relation to STI information dissemination, mechanisms that will curb STI illiteracy and also enhance a public understanding of STI issues without betraying the scientific truth should be promoted.


Furthermore, looking at the ICT pillar, how is Malawi fairing in ICT skills supply, are they adequate and sufficient? How about the regulatory frameworks including policies and legislations, are they relevant and complete? Is the infrastructure and communication platform which is integral in transforming Malawi to a KS adequate? Currently Malawi is a high consumer of foreign ICT products; it is high time that we developed an ICT research agenda which will provide a roadmap for conducting and eventually producing our own local ICT products. On the other hand, the fact that Malawi is connecting to the submarine cables in Tanzania and laying fibre optic cables to ensure affordable internet services is a good development for the emergence and sustainability of a KS.

All in all, the country has undertaken some strides in its journey towards a KS but still more we need to re-examine the Government’s role in developing a KS; move from an information society and also train leaders by equipping them with 21st century skills if we are to transform the society into a fully-fledged KS.