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Tunisia Is Becoming Singapore of Africa with Science&Technology Innovation and Education Innovation

Innovation Driven:

Tunisia Is Becoming Singapore of Africa with Science & Technology Innovation and Education Innovation

Reflection of TABC-FITA 2022 Tunis

By Professor Richard Li-Hua

ELITE Innovation College Cambridge, UK

10th June, 2022

Executive Summary

It was my great honour to have met with three ministers of Tunisian Higher Education and Scientific Research during my visit to Tunis. I felt very privileged to have opportunities in having profound exchanges and sharing fresh perspectives on tackling the opportunities and challenges and the future development trends in the global higher education during and in the post COVID-19 era. It was a short visit, however, it has given me an excellent opportunity to learn about the aspects of political, social, and economic development, the situation of scientific research and international technology transfer and the rapid development of higher education through education innovation in the country.

To some extent, by having this title, I quote Professor Ahmed Friaa, former Minister, “Tunisia can become the Singapore of Africa” in his remarks during the signing ceremony between Tunisian Forum for Knowledge and Human Development and China Association for Management of Technology. However, I have seen during my visit that Tunisia is very likely to become the Singapore in Africa.

Comparison between Tunisia and Singapore

Tunisia's population amounted to around 12 million in 2022. The country is one of the least populous in North Africa, followed by Libya. With an increasing urbanization rate, most people live in the governorates of Tunis, Sfax, and Nabeul, the leading areas by number of residents. Although the annual population growth slowed down in 2019 and 2020, the Tunisian population is forecast to increase to around 12.5 million by 2026. However, during 2022, Singapore population is projected to increase by 119,054 people and reach 6,177,793 in the beginning of 2023. The natural increase is expected to be positive, as the number of births will exceed the number of deaths by 28,779.

The Gross Domestic Product (GDP) in Tunisia was worth 39.24 billion US dollars in 2020, according to official data from the World Bank. The GDP value of Tunisia represents 0.03 percent of the world economy. However, the Gross Domestic Product (GDP) in Singapore was worth 340 billion US dollars in 2020, according to official data from the World Bank. The GDP value of Singapore represents 0.30 percent of the world economy.

The higher education sector has been well developed and good performance in terms of quantity of universities in Tunisia if you compare, for example, in the UK. In 2018–19, there were 165 higher education institutions in the UK that returned data to the Higher Education Statistics Agency (HESA). However, UK university rankings and league tables are highly competitive. There are over 150 higher education institutions to choose from in the UK. UK has a population of 67 million while Tunisia has a population 12 million.

The higher education system of Tunisia is well represented by 166 universities with 1,740 study programs. In addition 1,038 Bachelor programs at 160 universities, 625 Master programs at 121 universities, and 77 PhD programs at 18 universities. However, Singapore may be a small country, but has big influence in the realms of higher education and research, it is a big hitter. A whole series of global reports have recognized Singapore as a world leader in research and innovation over the past few decades. In recent years, it’s been ranked seventh in the 2015 INSEAD Global Innovation Index, third in IMD’s 2014 World Competitiveness Rankings and second in the World Economic Forum’s Global Competitiveness Report for 2014-15.

Within this context of global competitiveness and innovation, universities in Singapore are also gaining growing recognition, as Asian nations more generally strengthen their position in the global education market. Singapore’s two leading universities are now both ranked within the world’s top 15, and the city itself is ranked 15th in the QS Best Student Cities 2018, reflecting its combination of educational excellence, high quality of life, and diverse student community.

There are 34 universities in Singapore, of which six are national. The two best-known, the National University of Singapore (NUS) and Nanyang Technological University (NTU) both feature very highly in the QS World University Rankings 2021, offering courses in a wide range of subjects to their student populations of over 30,000 each.

The Rise of Africa

Because of my connection to African Content, I had well prepared my trip and keynote – The Rise of Africa, at TABC-FITA conference. For a long time, Africa used to be regarded as the “Forgotten Continent”, which was to some extent marginalized. However, with the world gradually moves to post COVID-19 era, it will be Africa’s turn and opportunity. It is time for us to now call the world’s attention to the social and economic development of the African nations.

As we are aware that there is no equitable sharing of global technological advances and their application in raising the welfare of states and there was no forcing basis to bring together developed and developing countries in developing collaboration, although international agencies, including United Nations, World Bank, OECD, BRICS, etc. have constantly made efforts to push in this direction. With unbalanced economic development, Africa must call upon itself to benefit from the intrinsic social innovation (ISI) and the new opportunities emerging from the pandemic including the International Technology Transfer (ITT).

It is important to understand, however, the rise of a national economy depends on both internal and external factors. No doubt, international technology transfer, through which advanced technology and equipment along with investment could be brought in, can serves as external dynamic factor, however, the internal factor - the intrinsic social innovation and soft capacity building even play an more important role in building a sustainable economy and society.

Very pleased that I delivered my keynote remarks along with Moncef Boukthir, the current Minister of Tunisian Higher Education and Scientific Research and had wide exchange on the future development trend of global higher education.

A Technology Hub and Innovation Engine

An excellent signing ceremony for the strategic partnership between Tunisian Forum for Knowledge and Human Development – ​​FTSDH, and China Association for the Management of Technology -CAMOT, took place on 2nd June in Tunis aiming at the promotion and exchange of knowledge and international technology transfer, social innovation and technology innovation, opening up perspectives for Tunisian young talents in the context of the technological innovation that the world is currently experiencing.

In-depth discussion with Professor Ahmed Friaa, former Minister

Throughout the development history of the world, the rise of a nation-continent is often inseparable from the rise of its national spirit and the revival of its national culture. In modern society, the prosperity of a country is often closely related to the innovation consciousness of the country. In order to innovate, understand the world development trend, and lead to the future, the nation must have a deep understanding of history and the past. Know who I am? Where did I come from? And where to go?

How did the human society develop? Where is the driving force for development? There is no doubt that the ability of intrinsic social innovation and technological innovation is crucial. Innovation is the driving force for human development. Conceptual innovation, theoretical innovation, technological innovation, and social management innovation are all the driving forces that promote the development of human society. We believe that intrinsic social innovation, conceptual innovation, and theoretical innovation along with science and technology innovation are primary. Imagine that if there is no theoretical innovation and intrinsic social innovation in human society, then all other innovations are empty talks, which will undoubtedly stand still.

Sighing Ceremony with Professor Ahmed Friaa, the Former Minister of Education

The purpose of this agreement is to create a partnership with a group of universities among the most important in China and other universities in the West, particularly in America, Canada, UK and Europe, with a view to exchanging respective experiences and helping young Tunisians to open their horizon for integrating into the world knowledge society.

As Founder and President of CAMOT, I felt privileged to collaborate and work with Professor Ahmed Friaa, the President of FTSDH, the Former Minister of Education, one of transformational leaders in the country.

We very much look forward to work with Professor Ahemed Friaa and his team to promote endogamous innovation, intrinsic social innovation, science and technology innovation via our joint Global Innovation Webinar series and Global University President Forum so as to create a technology hub and innovation engine in Africa.

An Innovative and Entrepreneurial University in Tunis

I am very privileged to have in-depth exchange and discussion during my short stay on the future development trends, opportunities, and challenges in the global higher education in the 21st century during and in the post COVID-19 era.

What is happening currently in the world is a major change with the nature of “breaking the traditional game” and “setting the new game” that has not occurred in the past 100 years. The impact of the great changes on the global higher education goes far beyond other fields. Oxbridge Model with a history of more than 800 years has never faced such a severe challenge. The world is now a different place to the one we knew. We need to be more imaginative and creative when socio-economic paradigms break down as they are currently doing.

Signing ceremony with Professor Slim Choura, Former Minister of Higher Education and Scientific Research, Tunisia

However, there is an opportunity for innovation and experimentation. Innovation has never been as important as for today. There is an opportunity for the global higher education to tackle the digital landscape and identify solutions, new working approaches, innovative services and processes that create positive change in the global higher education.

Nowadays, we will need fresh perspectives and profound strategic thinking to address a set question. What is the sustainable model of the university? Could the online innovative model substitute the traditional one? Could the vision and mission of the university be delivered without compromising the quality? How will global higher education evolve over the next 20 years? How can governments and education institutions take the challenges and make the most of the opportunities in the post COVID-19 era?

I am pleased that with the successful signing MOA with Professor Slim Choura, the Former Minister of Higher Education and Scientific Research, we are establishing an ELITT Institute, affiliated with ELITE Innovation College Cambridge (EICC), which leads to the creation of an Innovative and Entrepreneurial university with an innovative model with EICC brand and reputation, global academic resources, education innovation and intellectual property as well as EICC degree and non-degree programmes. One of many benefits for student is that they are, first of all, getting a Tunisian degree then plus an international degree, including a degree from UK, or Canada, or Germany or China. We are pioneering the new paradigm and an innovative model which leads education innovation in the post COVID-19 era.

We are looking forward to working closely with colleagues in Tunisia and make contribution via science & technology innovation and education innovation so as to enable Tunisia becoming the Singapore in Africa.

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