African Countries Urged to Show Stronger Political will to spur Industrialization

African countries need to show stronger political will to advance industrialization, including the adoption of new policies to promote improved productivity and harness the potential of a growing youth population, delegates attending the 2023 African Economic Conference heard.

The three-day conference was held in the Ethiopian capital, Addis Ababa, this week under the theme “Imperatives for Sustainable Industrial Development in Africa”.

Organized by the African Development Bank, the UN Economic Commission for Africa and the UN Development Program. the conference brought together experts, the private sector, and researchers to discuss the challenges and prospects of industrialization in Africa.

In her remarks, Ethiopian President Sahle-Work Zewde underscored the importance of industrialization as an essential driver of inclusive economic growth.

“The need to change the narrative of Africa’s industrialization for inclusive and sustainable industrial development has become more imperative; African countries need to build a robust industrial sector that can withstand external shocks,” she told participants.

President Sahle-Work stressed that industrial policies should focus on supporting domestic industrial development and promoting improved productivity and competitiveness, underscoring that COVID-19 had taught hard lessons about the vulnerability of global production and value chains to various shocks.

Africa is home to some of the world’s fastest-growing economies with an attractive human capital base, dominated by a young population base compared to the aging populations of other regions, and is therefore seen as the future frontier labor market.

Despite this, the pace of industrialization and economic transformation in Africa remains slow compared to other regions.

In a presentation, African Development Bank’s Chief Economist and Vice President Kevin Urama urged African countries to think differently and implement transformative policies that accelerate indigenous manufacturing capacity and encourage consumption of locally made products.

“Africans need to think African, produce African, and consume African to encourage indigenous industrial development in Africa,” he said.

Urama proposed several approaches to accelerate industrialization and structural transformation in Africa. These include implementing a strategic industrial policy that encourages local production and consumption, as well as domestic and regional value chain development.

“Policies such as local content and franchising could deliver low-hanging fruits,” Urama said. He added that Africa also has the natural resources needed to lead the electric vehicle technology revolution.

He highlighted the African Development Bank Group’s role, in collaboration with partners, in supporting Africa’s industrialization and economic transformation process through its High 5 priority Industrialise Africa.