Pretoria, 3 November 2016 (ECA) – Experts attending the 3rd Annual Senior Experts Dialogue on Science, Technology and the African Transformation Agenda on Thursday got a snippet preview of the ECA’s flagship report, the Economic Report for Africa 2017, as the theme of the meeting linked with some of the issues that the publication seeks to address.
The SED 2016 is being held under the theme “African Cities as Hubs of Innovation for Africa’s Structural Transformation” and being co-hosted by the ECA and South Africa’s Science and Technology Department (DST).
New Technologies and Innovation Section Chief in the Special Initiatives Division, Kasirim Nwuke, made the presentation, telling participants the 2017 Economic Report on Africa will undertake in depth analysis of the relationship between industrialization and urbanization, and point to the required policy interventions and responses to optimize the linkages.
“Essentially, urbanization leads to spatial and geographic shifts that have important implications for industrialization,” he said, adding Member States should assist ECA staff when they go to their countries in search of information and crucial data to use in the final report.
“Urban areas enable proximity, interaction and scaling up for industry thereby influencing factor productivity or sharing, matching and learning. This in turn impacts sector competitiveness.”
In addition, said Mr. Nwuke, shifting patterns of urban consumption and demand also create opportunities for industry, linking into the SED 2016 theme of creating hubs of innovation that will change the lives of ordinary people in Africa’s growing cities.
However, in the absence of deliberate and coordinated policies and planning, urban externalities can hinder industrial productivity. Examples of issues hindering industrial growth on the continent include congestion, excessive costs and pollution.
ECA’s 2017 Economic Report on Africa will also undertake in depth analysis of the relationship between industrialization and urbanization, and point to the required policy interventions and responses to optimize the linkages.
“Although urbanization has the potential to make economies and people more prosperous, most African countries have found themselves grossly unprepared in the face of the spatial, demographic, social, cultural, economic and environmental challenges associated with urbanization,” said Mr. Nwuke.
Harnessing the potential of urbanization for industrialization and structural transformation requires a shift in paradigm and deliberate policy responses, he told the attentive participants.
National governments, he said, need to give urbanization and African cities a strategic role in the structural transformation process.
“Be convinced that cities are an asset and not a liability and that there is an urgent need to grasp the economic implications and potential of rapid urbanization,” Mr. Nwuke said.
“Grasp that cities are not only a demographic phenomenon, but places of investment, innovation, diversification, that are related to rural areas as well as global and regional markets.
He urged governments to integrate urbanization in national development planning frameworks and establish linkages with sectoral policies, mostly those dealing with industrialization, economic diversification, agricultural development, trade, competitiveness, innovation and Foreign Direct Investment, among others.
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