The manufacturing sector is facing its most significant challenge yet in the form of COVID-19 disruptions to both supply and demand side. As governments and business are trying to react and mitigate the short-term impact of the pandemic, the United Nations Industrial Development Organization (UNIDO) has taken a look at the potential long-term changes to industry.
An online event, organized by UNIDO, the Kiel Institute for the World Economy (IfW Kiel), and the Kiel Centre for Globalization (KCG), addressed the challenges and opportunities of industrializing for developing countries in these unprecedented times. The webinar brought together over 300 participants from over 80 countries, and it marked the first event in a series on the Future of industrialization in a post-pandemic world, led by UNIDO’s Policy Research and Statistics Department.
UNIDO’s Deputy to the Director General, Hiroshi Kuniyoshi, introduced the series and remarked on the impact of the pandemic, which “has been immediate and ubiquitous, leaving people, businesses and entire economies struggling to deal with the fallout.” He reinforced UNIDO’s commitment to continuing the close collaboration with its Member States and partners, “We must respond with equal speed, moved by a sense of joint purpose.”
Kuniyoshi also set the scene for the series, posing the question that both governments and companies need to answer now: “What will a path to an inclusive and sustainable economic recovery look like?”
The true problem of our time is “the erosion of trust between nations”, remarked the President of the Kiel Institute, Gabriel Felbermayr, which he said is the “indispensable lubricant of global production chains.” Felbermayr noted that “the crisis will profoundly affect the global economy even if production and demand bounce back quickly. The crisis is likely change the structure and patterns of the global division of labour and in particular to affect the global production networks.”
Will the pandemic usher the end of globalization as we know it?
Opening the panel, Beata Javorcik, Chief Economist at the European Bank for Reconstruction and Development, warned of the “danger that the world will sleepwalk into protectionism.” She also stressed that “we need international commitment to free trade (…) The restructuring of global production networks should be providing opportunities for less popular investment destinations and for export of services in countries with inexpensive skilled labour.”
How is the transition towards the Fourth Industrial Revolution impacted by COVID-19?
Three trends in the adoption of 4IR technologies as a consequence of the COVID-19 crisis were outlined by Svenja Falk, Managing Director at Accenture Research: acceleration of platformization and ecosystem governance, the continued diversification of the supply chain, and digital infrastructure at the core of the changes. Falk remarked we are at a tipping point for the adoption of Industry 4.0 technologies, however “we will see that the Fourth Industrial Revolution is changing at the same time,” and it is too early to talk about winners or losers.
What can we learn from past crisis to increase resilience of global production networks?
Drawing on lessons learned from past crisis, Izumi Ohno, Director of JICA Ogata Research Institute, talked about the implications for developing countries’ participation in global production networks in the aftermath of COVID-19. “We must find a way to co-exist with the virus. A “new normal” world urges our behavioural change, beyond efficiency.” Ohno reinforced the urgent need to increase the resilience of global production networks, as this will contribute towards a resilient society,
What do the early lessons from the COVID-19 crisis mean for the future of industrialization?
“Developing countries will need to become more active in managing foreign direct investment to seize opportunities in the aftermath of COVID-19,” said Ha-Joon Chang, Director of the Centre of Development Studies at the University of Cambridge. Chang also talked about developing countries’ needs, citing the necessity to “identify strategic sectors, target firms and take into account sectoral needs in building infrastructure.”
Panelists agreed that while the current crisis is fueling uncertainty about the future, it also provides an opportunity to closer align our recovery to the Sustainable Development Goals and Agenda 2030, taking policy action with long-term inclusive and sustainable results at its core. New production models might pave the way forward, but we must ensure inclusiveness, as well as account for societal and environmental factors, not only the economic.