Knowledge Intensification in Resource-based Developing Economies: From Technological Learning to Lateral Migration

IERI Working Paper 2009-004
Jo Lorentzen and Thomas Pogue

The intellectual assets underpinning the modern knowledge economy are not normally associated with activities in the primary sector. This raises the question whether resourcebased developing countries are eternally relegated to the Also-Runs in global competition or at least whether they need to disassociate themselves from their economic mainstay in order for catch-up to materialise. The answer to this question is of paramount importance to many developing countries, especially in Latin America and Africa. This analysis contributes to the discussion in two novel ways. The first is the focus on technological trajectories that start in or around resource-based activities and subsequently become more knowledge intensive. Hence the study shows the direct contribution resource-based activities make towards the development of a knowledge economy. The second is the attempt systematically to compare technological trajectories in Africa’s most sophisticated economy with those in three Latin American countries at different stages of development. By contrast, this study concentrates on countries from continents that are customarily lumped together in the failure category. It analyses examples of technological learning and focuses on what works (not), and why, and whether insights from a collection of case studies can inform a broader policy discussion about how best to reconcile the demands of the knowledge economy with intensive resource endowments.

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