Africa has potential to become global industrial giant

Abidjan, 22 March 2013 (ECA) — Consensus is building among African countries that the continent needs to add value to its resources and diversify its production base to achieve industrialization that delivers employment, higher income and other dynamic benefits for African countries.

Speakers at the ongoing meeting of the Committee of African Experts of the Sixth Joint Annual Meetings of the ECA Conference of African Ministers of Finance, Planning and Economic Development and AU Conference of Ministers of Economy and Finance, were consistent in agreeing that Africa needs to industrialize now and has the potential to become a global industrial giant. However, this would not be without overcoming the peculiar challenges, among them developing the region’s infrastructure and country specific strategies to diversify through value addition and increased linkage development within the commodities sector. Regional integration and continental policy initiatives present opportunities for regional industrialization and value addition.

ECA Director of Macroeconomic Policy Division, Emmanuel Nnadozie said; “Africa should ignore the criticism of resource-based industrialization simply because we know commodity industrialization works.” He said examples were plenty of countries that have achieved a resource-based industrialization. South Africa Member of Parliament, Ben Turok, said his country had increased the benefits of its mineral resources, by adding value, and that opportunities abound for the enhancement and acceleration of industrialization. He said while such organizations like the World Trade Organization (WTO) may impose stringent trade rules. African countries have capacity to leverage to create conditions that can promote value addition to primary commodities. “We need to be clever about it. Every country needs to examine in very practical ways what it can leverage, in a sovereign way, and go around some of these challenges,” he added.

Colonial legacy, which emphasized export of raw materials, coupled with ill-advised past development models, most of them imposed on Africa from outside, have not led to the kind of industrialization that has been beneficial for Africa. “We need to put an end to growth that is based on export of primary commodities and allocate a percentage of gains for local linkage development. The export of raw materials cannot continue,” said Africa Union Commission Director of the Department of Economic Affairs, Rene Kouassi.

The experts meeting will conclude Sunday with robust recommendations on what African countries should do to accelerate the desired industrialization.

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