Introduction and Background

The development agenda of SoCATT African region is aimed at improving the capacity of Parliaments to ensure the realisation of Africa’s development strategy, Agenda 2063. SoCATT Africa Region hosts these development seminars annually as part of its strategic plan. The Society reviewed the first Strategic Plan in July 2015, and adopted a second Strategic Plan for the period 2015-2020. One of the key objectives of the Plan is to build the capacity of members of the Society in order to support Parliaments/Legislatures to deliver on their mandate. As part of the key objective, SoCATT organises Professional Development Seminars, Conferences and publishes papers presented in the Society’s Journal. The seminars are aimed at facilitating engagements in specific areas of the mandate of Parliaments.
Overview of Seminar Theme: Role of Parliaments in a Knowledge Based Economy
In a knowledge-based global society, with overwhelming flow of information, and hyper density- the work of public institutions and other representative democratic institutions such as Parliaments becomes more complex. What compounds the complexity is that, as pointed out by the World Economic Forum, “ we stand on the brink of a technological revolution that will fundamentally alter the way we live, work, and relate to one another”. In a different scale, scope, and complexity, now the Fourth Industrial Revolution is heralding a new transformation and reconfiguring a new world order. As pointed out by World Economic Forum, “the Fourth Industrial Revolution is building on the Third, the digital revolution that has been occurring since the middle of the last century and is characterized by a fusion of technologies that is blurring the lines between the physical, digital, and biological spheres”. Therefore, the traditional way of creating knowledge fails to grasp this emerging world. Our old modes of internalising and making meaning of the world around us become less useful. In this regard, it is clear that responses to this increasing complexity have to be rooted not only in multi-disciplinarily and information based society, but also in critical thinking and foresight. To this end, the observation underscores for Parliaments and/Legislatures, more especially those in the Commonwealth African countries, is the need for:
    • Revisiting old parliamentary codes, rules and refashion them to talk to the needs and realities of changing parliaments of the 21st century;
    • Reconfiguring and/or rethinking parliamentary systems and processes and explore different avenues for contextualizing new parliamentary management paradigms that have positive cumulative impact on the administration of parliamentary business.
    • Improving parliamentary core business processes to ensure that they maximize efficiency;
    • Improving and providing integrated and seamless support to Members of Parliament as they discharge their constitutional duties around oversight, accountability, making quality laws and increasing public participation in parliamentary processes.
    • Refocusing parliamentary systems and processes to be member-centric.
    • Ensuring that the support and service offerings are tailor made for individual needs of Members of Parliament to ensure that they discharge their responsibilities unhindered.
    • Making considerable efforts to ensure that Members of Parliament, as elected representatives of the people, are able to access, in real time and space, research products, content advisory services, legal and procedural advice of highest quality.
    • Improving the value of information and ease of use;

For Parliamentarians or Members of Parliament in Africa Region and for Society of Clerks at the Table (SoCATT) Africa Region membership, the observation is that, in this current world that is at a stage of profound change and major readjustment, they face the common problem of bringing expert knowledge to bear on parliamentary business and decision-making. As McGann (2009) rightfully observes, “in a world saturated with information, connected by the web and challenged by complex issues that often hit like a meteor from outer space, there is a growing need to know where to turn for high quality information and analysis on critical policy issues”. In fact, this talks to the need to build their capacity, harness their “know-how “expertise and subject-specific specialties.