Industrialization critical for Africa’s sustainable transformation: UNECA chief


UN Economic Commission for Africa (UNECA) Chief Antonio Pedro. /UNECA

Africa’s sustainable transformation requires sustainable industrialization that can withstand global challenges, acting executive secretary of the UN Economic Commission for Africa (UNECA) Antonio Pedro said.

The UNECA chief made the remarks on the occasion of Africa Industrialization Day, which is commemorated every year on Nov. 20 in line with African leaders’ decision back in 1989.

“The Russia-Ukraine crisis we are in and the devastating COVID-19 pandemic we are recovering from 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,” a UNECA statement quoted Pedro as saying.

He emphasized that industrialization is critical for Africa as primary products, both extractive or agricultural, account for the bulk of African exports to the rest of the world, while processed products dominate the continent’s imports.

“In far too many cases, we export the raw product and reimport the same thing in processed form thereby exporting African jobs to others and effectively paying for the wages of foreign workers,” Pedro said.

Figures from the UNECA show that between 2016 and 2021, fuels accounted for the largest share of Africa’s total exports, ranging from 29 percent to 43 percent in any given year, and averaging 37 percent over the period. At a more granular level, petroleum and petroleum-related products comprise the largest percentage.

“Industrialization is not an option for Africa, it is an imperative. Simply put, by adding value to our raw materials here on the continent, we can convert our resources to the real blessings they are, rather than allow them to continue to be a curse imposed on us,” Pedro said.

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