Industrialization for 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.
Within the framework of the Second Industrial Development Decade for Africa (1991-2000), the United Nations General Assembly, in 1989, proclaimed 20 November “Africa Industrialization Day” (A/RES/44/237). Since then, the United Nations System has held events on that day throughout the world to raise awareness about the importance of Africa’s industrialization and the challenges faced by the continent.
Theme 2020: “Inclusive and sustainable industrialisation in the AfCFTA era”
Since 2018, the Africa Industrialization Day has been successfully commemorated with weeklong events. The Africa Union Commission will be hosting the 2020 Africa Industrialization Week celebrations (#AIW2020) on 16-20 November 2020, under the theme “Inclusive and sustainable industrialisation in the AfCFTA and COVID-19 era”.
On 21 March 2018 in Kigali, Rwanda, the Agreement establishing an African Continental Free Trade Area (AfCFTA) was signed, creating a single African market for goods and services and the world’s largest free trade area by number of countries. The AfCFTA is expected to become operational on 1 January 2021, backed up by 28 ratifications to date, and 54 signatures to the Agreement. However, despite these positive developments, the advent of COVID-19 early 2020 has posed the most formidable risk to the smooth phase-in of the AfCFTA, given its disruptive nature to business and commerce. Thus, given this scenario the need to build continuous political advocacy on the need to industrialise Africa cannot be overemphasized. The AIW2020, therefore, presents such an opportunity, to rally stakeholders at national, regional, continental, and global level to exchange knowledge on the continent’s structural transformation agenda.
The impact of COVID-19
Despite being the second most-populated continent in the world (1.2 billion people), Africa represented only 1.4 % of the world Manufacturing value added in the first quarter of 2020. 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 activity with a growth expected to fall to -3.3% in 2020, pushing the region into its first recession in 25 years. The combination of domestic lockdowns and lower external demand from the global recession will weigh heavily on the industry sector.