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Africa’s Decade of Industrialization

Summary:
VIENNA – In today’s interdependent global economy, Africa remains a weak link. If the world is to achieve the Sustainable Development Goals, thereby completing the United Nations 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development, it must help Africa accelerate its development by promoting rapid and responsible industrialization. Africa is by no means destined to lag behind the rest of the world economy. On the contrary, it could easily become a global economic powerhouse – and within the next decade. But, to fulfill its economic potential, Africa must industrialize. The importance of this has been stressed repeatedly at recent international forums, including last August’s Sixth Tokyo International Conference on African Development (TICAD VI), and the G20 summit in Hangzhou, China, the following month. For the first time, the G20 placed industrialization in Africa – and all of the Least Developed Countries (LDCs) – on its agenda. The African Union’s Agenda 2063 also supports this drive. The recent UN General Assembly resolution declaring 2016-2025 the Third Industrial Development Decade for Africa is yet another push in this direction.

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VIENNA – In today’s interdependent global economy, Africa remains a weak link. If the world is to achieve the Sustainable Development Goals, thereby completing the United Nations 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development, it must help Africa accelerate its development by promoting rapid and responsible industrialization.

Africa is by no means destined to lag behind the rest of the world economy. On the contrary, it could easily become a global economic powerhouse – and within the next decade. But, to fulfill its economic potential, Africa must industrialize.

The importance of this has been stressed repeatedly at recent international forums, including last August’s Sixth Tokyo International Conference on African Development (TICAD VI), and the G20 summit in Hangzhou, China, the following month. For the first time, the G20 placed industrialization in Africa – and all of the Least Developed Countries (LDCs) – on its agenda. The African Union’s Agenda 2063 also supports this drive.

The recent UN General Assembly resolution declaring 2016-2025 the Third Industrial Development Decade for Africa is yet another push in this direction. The organization that I represent, the UN Industrial Development Organization (UNIDO), has been tasked with operationalizing and leading the implementation of the concomitant program, including mobilizing the needed resources.

All of these declarations and commitments are an important first step. But they will mean little unless they are translated into concrete and effective action that advances African industrialization, creates jobs, and fosters inclusive and sustainable economic growth and development. The question is how.

The short answer is money and action. We must challenge the international community and development partners to back their words with real financial commitments. And we must build partnerships to operationalize programs that will enable Africa to become the world’s next main engine of economic growth.

Such programs must recognize and tackle the acute challenges the continent faces. The economic growth experienced in recent decades has not been structurally driven, sustainable, or fully inclusive. Indeed, growth rates vary widely across the continent, and not all Africans are benefiting. Though the middle class in Africa has expanded markedly in recent years, generating a consumer boom and boosting domestic investment, many people still struggle to make a living. Unemployment rates are high, especially for young people and women – a reality that drives many Africans to head north.

To keep them home, Africa’s economies must...

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