Allow me to say that as The Gambia consolidates its economic transformation and presses to attain the projected economic superpower position by the year 2025 investing in its younger generation will be critical. We all know that a major driver of global competitiveness is the higher education attainment of the productive population. For The Gambia, the unfolding austere conditions threaten the pursuit of this goal. Therefore, if we are to realise our global destiny, we need to bring new ideas to bear on investing in the country’s younger generation, our future leaders and builders. In this way, we will avoid poor attainment and stem dropout in higher education. We need to explore extra-budgetary resources to deliver as student financial support. We should aim to distribute such assistance to the doorsteps of Gambian households with greater focus on young people in the lower socio-economic groups, especially the women. In this way, we will democratise access to higher education and strengthen our competitiveness. Apart from the higher education of the productive population, another variable in the global competitiveness equation is knowledge driven leadership. As the industrial revolution ebbs, and the knowledge revolution unfolds, leading nations are taking vantage positions in the knowledge spaces in order to maintain dominance, infusing doses of knowledge leadership in all spheres of governance. For example in politics, leadership is no longer a matter of dexterity in wheeling and dealing. Rather, forward looking nations increasingly turn to and present the best from higher education systems all over the world.
Modern Singapore started its journey many years ago when late Lee Kuan Yew, its extraordinary founding father with two first class degrees at Cambridge University, took over the headship of the small nation and transformed it from a third to the first world. Other leading nations have done the same. In the United Kingdom, we had Margaret Thatcher of Oxford, a research scientist. Also, Tony Blair and now Cameron are of Oxford. In America, we had Bill Clinton, an alumnus of Oxford and Yale and a former professor. Under him, America witnessed its longest period of economic prosperity in history and fiscal surpluses for four years running. Now they have Barack Obama of Harvard and a former senior lecturer at Columbia. Even in global governance, knowledge leadership is reaffirmed. We have the Secretary General of the United Nations Ban Ki-moon, product of Harvard. At the World Bank, we have as the President, Dr Jim Yong Kim also of Harvard. Incidentally both have roots in South Korea, a world leader in higher education attainment.
Of particular interest, the current World Bank president is a medical doctor who worked at the highest levels in higher education governance and in global civic sector development. As a result and for the first time a president, who does not come from a political or financial background, now steers a rebranded ‘knowledge’ and ‘solutions’ institution for a balanced pursuit of human and social development in health and education, among others, and economic goals. The foregoing leadership choices reflect the global impact of the unfolding knowledge revolution fuelled partly through the expanding access to higher education worldwide to produce quality higher level human capital of knowledge and skills. In this new revolution, knowledge is the primary factor of production, just as land was to the agricultural age and machines to the industrial revolution. Global competitiveness is a function in part of the quantum and quality of the productive population and leadership, both drawn from the higher education systems of the emerging knowledge societies.
In The Gambia, we should align with these unfolding scenarios. Our citizens and government at all levels need to see to it that we invest heavily in our younger generation to enhance our global competitiveness and position. The key is the democratisation of higher education access through student financing targeted as safety nets for the vast majority of our young men and women residing at the lower strata of the society. It should aim at the strategic goal of at least a graduate in every home in The Gambia by the year 2030. This challenge is surmountable. All it demands is the political will. It needs emphasis that in investing in our younger generation we do our youths no favour. We are only discharging the abounding duty of grooming the heads that lie uneasy to bear the heavy burdens of leadership and nation building for a future Gambia.