Africa’s transformation requires industrialization – Antonio Pedro

Antonio Pedro

Africa has been on a long route of economic and social transformation, as countries on the continent seek to harness their full potential to improve their economies and the standards of living of their citizens, and that transformation has long been thought could be attained through industrialization.

Mr Antonio Pedro, the Acting Executive Secretary of the Economic Commission for Africa (ECA) has said it has always been known that Africa’s sustainable transformation must be attained through sustainable industrialization.

Mr Pedro who was speaking at the opening of the African Union Summit on Industrialization and Economic Diversification in the Nigerien capital, Niamey on Africa Industrialization Day, said: “We have always known that Africa’s sustainable transformation requires sustainable industrialization. Thirty-three years ago, on July 26, 1989, the Assembly of Heads of State and Government of the Organization of African Unity decided that the November 20th be commemorated as the Africa Industrialization Day every year.”

He noted that the very first aspiration under the AU’s Agenda 2063 is to build “A prosperous Africa based on inclusive growth and sustainable development” for which beneficiation of Africa’s natural resources, manufacturing, and industrialization are the key success factors.

“Likewise, Sustainable Development Goal 9 (SDG9) of the 2030 Agenda puts sustainable industrialization at the centre of global efforts to promote prosperity while protecting the planet,” he said.

Mr Pedro citing the Russia-Ukraine crisis and the devastating COVID-19 pandemic that the continent is recovering from, noted that these “have cruelly reconfirmed the accuracy of our diagnosis and prescription, but also the yawning gap between our lofty ambitions and our paltry performance in this crucial field.”

“But, today, I believe we stand at a turning point where we leave this inconvenient truth behind us and open a new chapter in African economic history. I do not say this out of wishful thinking or blind optimism. I have good reasons behind it.

The adoption of the Agreement Establishing African Continental Free Trade Area (AfCFTA) in 2018 and its speedy entry into force in 2019 demonstrates that Africa is finally ready for takeoff.

The AfCFTA gives Africa the unique opportunity to replace its small and fragmented markets with a large single market in which goods, services, capital and people can move freely oblivious of internal boundaries,” he said.

In his remarks at a side event on financing SMEs, Ahmadou Abdoulaye Diallo, the Director-General of African Solidarity Foundation urged African countries to work together in unison to respond to the effects of the COVD-19 pandemic, the economic and food crises facing the continent.

“We can respond appropriately if we work together in unison,” he said.

He also urged increased financing for SMEs in Africa to enable them fulfil their role in actualizing the AfCFTA, noting that the growth of SMEs is conditioned by their access to finance.

“SMEs are contributors to employment and GDP growth. They contribute to gender balance and they are vectors of wealth distribution, but their effectiveness is limited by the challenges they face (access to finance,” he said.

Albert Muchanga, the African Union Commissioner for Trade and Industry said the AU as a partner of governments and Regional Coordination Communities is working with a strategy for Africa’s industrialization process.

“Finance is always in short supply, so we have ensure that people have access to finance, that they make good use of it, and pay back in time and in full,” he said.

He urged financial institutions in Africa to come up with tailor-made programmes to make finance accessible to SMEs on the continent.

The five-day Summit is being held from November 20 to 25, 2022 under the theme “Harnessing the AfCFTA for Africa’s industrialization: Fostering competitiveness and sustainability in the digital era”.

By Emmanuel K Dogbevi, in Niamey, Niger

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