The continent, since the first anniversary of the United Nations’ Africa Industrialisation Day, has not been without development partners.
Within the framework of the Second Industrial Development Decade for Africa (1991-2000), the United Nations General Assembly, in 1989, proclaimed the “Africa Industrialization Day.” Since then, the United Nations System has held events throughout the world to raise awareness about the importance of Africa’s industrialization and the challenges faced by the continent. The world would be richer with an industrialised Africa.
Furthermore, on 25 July 2016, the United Nations General Assembly proclaimed 2016-2025 as the Third Industrial Development Decade for Africa (IDDA III). UNIDO was tasked with leading the implementation of the Decade, in collaboration with a range of partners. The vision for the implementation of IDDA III is to firmly anchor Africa on a path towards inclusive and sustainable industrial development.
Industrial development is of critical importance for sustained and inclusive economic growth in African countries. Industry can enhance productivity, increase the capabilities of the workforce, and generate employment, by introducing new equipment and new techniques. Industrialization, with strong linkages to domestic economies, will help African countries achieve high growth rates, diversify their economies and reduce their exposure to external shocks. This will substantially contribute to poverty eradication through employment and wealth creation.
But it is sad to note that the road to industrializing Africa is still a narrow path, no thanks to weak economic incentives across the continent.
It is disappointing that Africa is a massive contributor to much of the world’s manufacturing inputs in the form of raw materials, but remains in the doldrums of industrialisation. The situation is more accentuated by the fact that Africa is replete with a thriving youth population, an envy of much of the developed world.
But the fact that the leadership of Africa knows what to do to tackle the problem of low industrialization is even more disheartening.
For example, a major albatross to industrialization in Africa is poor power supply. Clearly, with the right policies in place the situation of power supply on the continent could easily be overcome. And there is no gainsaying the fact that adequate power supply is sine qua non to the industrialization of any country.
Added to the problems of policy in many African countries, last year and the current had been especially difficult for virtually the entire world, Africa no exception.
While the COVID-19 pandemic has evolved more slowly in Sub-Saharan Africa than in other regions, it has exerted a sizable toll on economic activities, pushing the region into its first recession in 25 years. The combination of domestic lockdowns and lower external demand from the global recession weigh heavily on the industry sector.
African countries no doubt must put in internal mechanisms, such as ensuring adequate power supply and the right policies to encourage the kind of local and foreign investments to fast track industrialization on the continent.
The time to do the needful is now.