Through a unique subregional industrial and economic diversification strategy, Central Africa is seeking to double, in the years ahead, industrial contribution to GDP from its current rate of 12%
Yaounde, 17 June, 2020 (ECA) – A harmonized and consolidated industrialization and economic diversification masterplan (PDIDE, in French) covering all 11 countries of the Central African sub-region will be pivotal in apprehending recurrent economic backpedals, building back better in a post-COVID-19 world, and achieving sustainable development, say principals of the ECCAS General Secretariat and the CEMAC Commission.
In a virtual meeting convened by the Subregional Office for Central Africa of the UN Economic Commission for Africa (ECA), attended by about 100 persons, Wednesday 17 June 2020, Ms. Marie Thérèse Chantal Mfoula – Deputy Secretary General of ECCAS, and Prof. Daniel Ona Ondo – President of the CEMAC Commission agreed on the submission by ECA that a cross-institutional work stream be created to consolidate the main axes of a combined industrialization and economic diversification masterplan, based on considerable work already done separately by both institutions.
Alongside the Technical Secretariat of the Steering Committee for the Rationalization of Regional Economic Communities in Central Africa (COPIL/CER, in French), ECA’s Office for Central Africa is providing backstopping services to this effort.
Analyses from the ECCAS General Secretariat show that yields from industrialization in Central Africa, as a full bloc, contribute to barely 12% of the subregion’s GDP. The virtual gathering was told that this figure must be doubled (to around 24%) in the years ahead if member States really want to end the cycles of economic booms and bursts from which they have suffered due to over-dependence on the export of raw materials. This, by aggressively pursuing structural transformation as per the Douala Consensus arrived at during ECA’s 35th subregional intergovernmental conference for Central Africa held in 2017.
“The project of developing a unique industrialization and economic diversification strategy for Central Africa is therefore godsend to enable us work together around the common value chains that will provide countries of our sub-region with the opportunity to produce, transform, distribute, and consume manufactured goods which resonate with their own needs and tastes,” according to Mr. Antonio Pedro who heads the Central Africa Office of ECA.
Mr. Pedro reiterated the need to fashion the main thrust of masterplan in a way which would enable the subregion build back better from the ravages of COVID-19, in line with the post-pandemic campaign of the UN Secretary General – Mr. Antonio Guterres, by totally transforming its pharmaceutical and food supply chains as it pursues an all-englobing Made in Central Africa agenda.
Aside from agribusiness, other low hanging fruits on which to set the ball running include: building the energy value chain (about which Central Africa possesses the highest potential on the continent) and harnessing water resources, added Mr. Adama Coulibaly, Head of the Subregional Initiatives Section for ECA in Central Africa. He further noted the need to mainstream geospatial considerations as well as size up the nexus between urbanization and industrialization in such a masterplan.
In the same vein, Mr. Duval Antoine Dembi, Director of Industrial Development, Mines and Tourism of the CEMAC Commission added other key priorities for immediate attention including mines and metals development as well as the forest and green economy.
Mr. Jules Rommel Touka of the ECCAS General Secretariat warned that weaknesses in productivity and ability to adapt to changes, gaps in creating ‘positive externalities’ on the economy through value addition and strengthened capacity, as well as inadequacies in governance to support the productive sectors, were some of the salient challenges to tackle in making such a masterplan work for Central Africa.
“This is an opportunity for us to ensure that Central African member States, the CEMAC Commission and the ECCAS General Secretariat work together in a team dynamic and within a common vision, towards a single document, which meets the aspirations of the peoples of the sub-region,” said Ms. Mfoula of the ECCAS General Secretariat.
“Diversifying and industrializing our economies is now the condition sine qua non for reconstructing our nations especially given the lessons learnt from the COVID-19 pandemic, hence we need a bankable tool to present to our Heads of State,” declared Prof. Ona Ondo the CEMAC Commission.
“This is no longer time for words but time for action,” he stated.
According to Mr. Patrice Libong Badjan, Coordinator of the Technical Secretariat of the Steering Committee for the Rationalization of Regional Economic Communities in Central Africa (COPIL / CER-AC, in French), the proposed unique PDIDE for the subregion will enrich the range of concrete achievements already recorded within the framework of bringing the CEMAC and ECASS under one umbrella as a single regional economic community.
A timeframe of one month has been set for identifying the main pillars of a CEMAC-ECCAS combined industrialization and economic diversification masterplan to be tabled before governments of the subregion.
Abel Akara Ticha - Communication Officer
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