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Industrializing Africa: Renewed commitment towards an Inclusive and Sustainable Industrialization and Economic Diversification

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Under the auspices of the African Union, from November 20 to 25, government representatives and corporate industrialists as well as agricultural experts plan to discuss and re-examine strategic mechanisms for improving two key sectors, and interconnection between the economy and industry in Africa. 

The gathering seeks, after the critical indepth discussions, to design new action plan on industrializing Africa, add value to the continent’s agricultural products and, look at possible ways to strengthen and diversify the economy. While this might not be an easy task, it is however about time that African leaders make serious and conscious efforts in transforming resources to build infrastructure and work towards developing a sustainable economy.

With this background, the African Union fixed this summit theme as “Industrializing Africa: Renewed commitment towards an Inclusive and Sustainable Industrialization and Economic Diversification” reflecting the practical task ahead of all African leaders.

Given the importance of industrialization and economic transformation in Africa, the 20th of every November is commemorated as the Africa Industrialization Day, which was adopted by the Assembly of Heads of State and Government of the Organization of African Unity in July 1989, in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia.  

The Africa Industrialization Day provides an opportunity to key stakeholders to reflect on Africa’s industrialization by looking at how the continent can change its current status quo. Since 2018, the Africa Industrialization Day has been commemorated with week-long events, marking a departure from the one-day tradition, and which affords more time to reflect and accelerate actions toward Africa’s structural transformation, as an enabler to meet the objectives of Agenda 2063 and Sustainable Development Goals 2030.

Now that trading under the African Continental Free Trade Area (AfCFTA) agreement was also launched on 1st January 2021, makes it paramount for African leaders to address contradictions and complexities in the development paradigms, critically focus on economic sectors with their external partners. It is a common goal to build an integrated economy for Africa.

In close interconnection with this, experts have emphasized that steps must necessarily fall within the ideals of realizing the primary aims of creating single continental market. Understandably the AfCFTA, created as a single African market for goods and services, covers an estimated 1.3 billion people with a combined GDP of over $2.5 trillion across 55 member states. 

Thus, Africa’s industrialization and transformation agenda needs to be supported at the highest national, regional, continental and global levels. The focus is to accelerate efforts in a selected number of key policy areas – such as energy and road infrastructure, trade facilitation, financial sector development, education development, agro-industrial transformation, green industrialization and technological innovation and transformation. 

Advancing the AfCFTA and Africa-Industrialization side-by-side with deliberate efforts to realize the mutually reinforcing interdependences between the two will provide Africa’s critical success pillar and condition for Agenda 2063.

More fundamentally, there are still many questions by a number of African leaders, including the system of governance and poor state management combined with weak development policies and strategies, that have openly exposed the hollowness of African economies on several fronts, including the fragility and weakness of Africa’s industrial capabilities. There is the need to change the development narratives toward the prioritization of initiatives intended to accelerate Africa’s industrialization.

The industrialization prospects for the continent are anchored on unleashing the growth of small and micro-enterprises guided by the African Union SMEs Strategy, whose development was informed by evidence-based mapping of the peculiarities of the continent’s production systems. By creating business-enabling conditions, using available opportunities and possibilities, across the entire continent that can enhance the longevity rate of Micro, Small and Medium-Sized Enterprises (MSMEs).

Whilst the continent’s industrial policy landscape stretches back to the 1980s from the First Industrial Decade for Africa, all the way to the Accelerated Industrial Development of Africa (AIDA, 2008), and globally, the United Nations General Assembly (UNGA) has further magnified the significance of Africa’s industrialization through the adoption of a resolution in July 2016 that dedicated the period 2016-2025 to the Third Industrial Development Decade for Africa (IDDA III), the performance has remained rather mixed. 

Under the circumstances, the development challenges currently confronting the continent, therefore, necessitate the need for effective, efficient and timely deployment of action beyond political rhetoric for any meaningful impact on delivering sustainable human development in the continent in the medium- to long-term more so.

It is encouraging to note that IDDA III presents yet another opportunity to rally global partnerships and efforts to work as a collective to drive structural transformation in Africa. As such, it should be optimally leveraged in this endeavour for any meaningful impact on delivering a sustainable and inclusive industrialization pathway for Africa. 

What is critical at the moment for Africa is to acknowledge, the need to chart a revived focus towards a rejuvenated Pan-African industrialization agenda, and framework informed by lessons learnt this far from previous programmes, taking full cognizance of the current and evolving social, economic and political trends, and developmental needs of the continent. 

The continent’s capacity to deliver on Agenda 2063 hinges on industrialization. To buttress this, the UN SDGs have assigned Goal 9 towards building industries and resilient infrastructure as a way of strengthening developing economies’ capacity to address structural challenges and poverty alleviation. 

In addition, the IDDA III should be flexible enough to consider Africa’s industrialization within the context of uncertainties such as the geopolitical changes in the world. Going forward, Africa’s industrialization agenda must unequivocally incorporate industries that prove to be resilient in the face of uncertainties and recovery-ready within the shortest possible time when industries are hard hit.

On the other hand, industrialization should not be perceived as a single pathway for sustainable development in Africa. Rather, industrialization, with strong multi-sectoral and multi-directional linkages to domestic economies, will help African countries to achieve higher economic growth rates and economic diversification. Success in industrialization will be at the core of efforts to address key structural economic growth and development weaknesses and fragilities – from poverty and inequality through to inadequately developed education, health, housing and sanitation services. 

Seeing beyond the current challenges requires policymakers to tackle head-on other supply-side structural bottlenecks and barriers such as energy and infrastructure for enhanced enterprise competitiveness. This also places due pressure on policymakers to improve business and regulatory regimes to enhance private capital flows, absorption and adaptation of technology, artificial intelligence and skills transfer to unleash private sector growth.

Furthermore, sustainable success on the Africa’s industrialization front will only be achieved with deliberate efforts to integrate and systematically address Africa’s underlying development features, such as the micro-small-medium enterprises and informal economy, the urban-rural transition, socio-economic diversity across the 55-member African Union, as well as linkages between education-skills development and industry. Cross-cutting issues such as gender, climate change, energy security, youth population and growing unemployment, to facilitate the evolution of a sustainable and inclusive industrialization pathway for the continent.

Africa has a lot to learn from its own experiences on industrialization over the past several decades as well as from other parts of the world. However, what is abundantly clear is that industrialization successes in Europe and the Americas and more recently in Asia cannot be fully replicated in Africa. Apart from just that, Africa has its own unique circumstances, and many of the factors that propelled industrial success in other continents no longer exist. That is why advancing Africa’s industrialization has to take deliberate consideration of what can and should work for Africa while ensuing interdependences with the rest of the world in those areas that can amplify the continent’s benefits. 

It is important to emphasize here that there are partnerships and alliances to deliver on Africa’s industrialization: these include rallying domestic and international public-private partnerships for enhanced planning and implementation capabilities for accelerated-expanded industrial growth in Africa.

It depends on multi-/cross-sectorial approaches as key condition for success: aligning key cross sector conditions and policies for success: energy security, institutions, polities and legislation, human capital – skills and intellectual capacity, environmental resilience and climate change (green industries).

Noteworthy to reiterate here that African leaders have to take into consideration the youth and women-led MSMEs in driving success in Africa’s industrialization, special cross-cutting drivers for sustainable success: youth, micro-, small and medium enterprises, women, competitiveness and urban-rural transitions.

There are also resource governance and leveraging financial and non-financial resources into Africa’s industrialisation: de-risking Africa’s industrialization, catalysing domestic and international investments, technology transfer and local innovations to leapfrog Africa’s industrial growth. Besides these discussed above, another aspect that is indigenous knowledge and Africa’s industrialization: that includes protecting African indigenous knowledge with intellectual property rights to integrate into Africa’s industrialization.

In light of the key and strategic interdependences between industrialization and the African Continental Free Trade Area Agreement (AfCFTA), the summit aims to rally desired political momentum, resources, partnerships and alliances towards an African industrialization drive. This is along the continental resolve to drive structural transformation, built around leveraging Africa’s rich and diverse natural resources while at the same time embracing current advances in technologies, continental and global geo-political trends and emergence of tradeable services.

Therefore it is anticipated to unlock the evolution of a vibrant Pan-African enterprise and capital base that will unleash an inclusive and sustainable industrialization pathway that carries along with the participation of all economic agents, including SMEs, youth, and women in the generation of national wealth and creation of jobs as well as expansion of entrepreneurship opportunities for Africa’s 1.3 billion population. 

While this November summit aims at highlighting Africa’s renewed determination and commitment to industrialization, it simultaneously aims at reminding the expectation for Africa to take a great leap forward from its industrial stagnation, and the summit offers the platform for taking joint decisions, it finally portrays as one of the pillars or cornerstones in addressing the continent’s economic growth and sustainable development goals as articulated in Agenda 2063 and Agenda 2030. 

MD Africa Editor Kester Kenn Klomegah is an independent researcher and writer on African affairs in the EurAsian region and former Soviet republics. He wrote previously for African Press Agency, African Executive and Inter Press Service. Earlier, he had worked for The Moscow Times, a reputable English newspaper. Klomegah taught part-time at the Moscow Institute of Modern Journalism. He studied international journalism and mass communication, and later spent a year at the Moscow State Institute of International Relations. He co-authored a book “AIDS/HIV and Men: Taking Risk or Taking Responsibility” published by the London-based Panos Institute. In 2004 and again in 2009, he won the Golden Word Prize for a series of analytical articles on Russia's economic cooperation with African countries.

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China Signs Agreement to Build ECOWAS Headquarters

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The Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS) has signed a Memorandum of Understanding (MoU) for a $31.6 million grant from the Government of China for the construction of a new headquarters for the regional body in Abuja.

The President of the ECOWAS Commission, Jean-Claude Brou, and the Ambassador of China to Nigeria and ECOWAS, Zhou Pingjian, signed for both parties at a bilateral meeting held at the ECOWAS Commission headquarters, Abuja, according to media reports.

Brou expressed gratitude to the Chinese government for the grant saying it was a mark of goodwill from the Asian country to ECOWAS. The project is expected to cost $31.6 million. The new headquarters is expected to be completed in 26 months, and will enhance productivity among staff and reduce operational costs as the ECOWAS Commission currently operates from three locations in Abuja.

The building’s facilities include offices and conference complex building, as well as roads, electrical equipment, parking lots and security posts within the proposed site of the project.

The Chinese built the African Union (AU) headquarters in the Ethiopian capital, Addis Ababa, at a cost of $200 million in 2012 and dubbed the marble and glass edifice a gift to the people of Africa. It is currently completing the building for the Africa Centres for Disease Control and Prevention.

At least three West African leaders including Nigerian President Muhammadu Buhari and his counterparts from Guinea Bissau and Sierra Leone, as well as President of the ECOWAS Commission Omar Alieu Touray and Chinese Ambassador to Nigeria Cui Jianchun, performed the groundbreaking ceremony to formally commence the construction of the new headquarters.

In his opening address, the President of the ECOWAS Commission, Dr. Omar Alieu Touray thanked the government of the Federal Republic of Nigeria for providing the plot covering an area of seven hectares along the Airport Road in Abuja for the building project and the Chinese government who provided technical and financial support for the construction of the headquarters. 

Cui Jianchun, the Ambassador of the People’s Republic of China to the Federal Republic of Nigeria and ECOWAS, said China is keen on expanding diplomatic relations with Africa through support for construction projects like the new ECOWAS Commission headquarters. He highlighted that these buildings demonstrate China’s sincere determination to support the unity, peace and development of the African region along her efforts to promote and support Africa’s infrastructure development programme.

In his remarks, Muhammadu Buhari, President of the Federal Republic of Nigeria, highlighted that the project represents China’s commitment to West Africa’s sub-regional bloc and evidence of a strong and cooperation between Africa and China. He added that the new headquarters is a symbol of the unity and brotherhood of ECOWAS member states and signifies a re-commitment to regional integration and development of the countries in the sub-region. He thanked the Chinese government for their technical and financial support for the building.

Umaro Sissoco Embaló, the Chairman of the ECOWAS Authority of Heads of State and Government and President of the Republic of Guinea Bissau, thanked the Government of the Federal Republic of Nigeria for their contribution towards the realization of the building complex. He said the new and modern headquarters will enable the staff of the ECOWAS Commission perform their duties better and provide a suitable working environment.

The new ECOWAS headquarters will house the ECOWAS Commission, Community Court of Justice and the ECOWAS Parliament all headquartered in Abuja, Nigeria.

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U.S.-Africa Leaders Summit: Matters Arising and Way Forward

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On the eve of the U.S.-Africa Leaders Summit planned for December 13-15 in Washington, the Corporate Council in partnership with the African Union and the U.S. State Department hosted discussions which was a combination of online and offline with a number of experts from the United States and Africa.

Katherine Tai, the 19th United States Trade Representative and Secretary-General Wene from the African Continental Free Trade Area (AfCFTA), Ambassador Rama Yade, Senior Director of the Africa Center. Taking part was the Dean of the African diplomatic corps in the United States.

This discussion came on the eve of the US-Africa Leaders Summit (ALS), which will advance US-African collaboration on today’s most pressing global and regional priorities. The ALS will reflect the breadth and depth of US partnerships with African governments, businesses, civil society, and citizens-partnerships based on dialogue, respect, and shared values that harness the ingenuity and creativity of American and African people.

There were various themes during the discussion against the difficult geopolitical backdrop of high global economic imbalances slowing direct investment into the continent as well as accelerating shifts in the job market. 

Worth noting that the United States – Africa Leaders’ Summit will be hosted by President Joe Biden, and it primarily serves as a demonstration and commitment towards the African continent and further provides the platform for new joint initiatives between the United States and countries in Africa.

The discussion reviewed, somehow the current relations as well as possible new initiatives to boost the continent’s recovery from coronavirus pandemic, how to effectively bolster food security and to promote investment in various critical sectors including infrastructure, health and renewable energy, among other priorities.

On the other hand, the discussion also focused on strengthening the African diaspora communities and engage them in advancing a two-way trade and investment partnership, scale up innovation and entrepreneurship, and drive advancements in key sectors. 

The United States together with the African diaspora have a very unique opportunity to make sure to change the narrative of trade and focus on inclusive rather than only on market access. Supporting women and youth in  identifying opportunities, challenges and also barriers that confront them.

Questions such as what are the challenges that we can confront together and what are the solutions that we can present to heads of states and government to begin to change the last 60 years or so of exclusion of young people people for mainstream economic activity excluding – exclusion of small medium enterprises from mainstream economic activity to make them partners in the implementation.

The United States understands that African Union and African leaders are looking at regional linkages very strategically and then always around inclusivity. How and what to do better with economic engagement inside and outside, to bring everyone along and not to leave people behind.

The United States already plans to take concrete action to benefit young people including women, to benefit small medium enterprises, small cum medium enterprises in Africa, creating over 450 million jobs. And the bulk of that 450 million jobs are young Africans. 

The Corporate Council on Africa significantly undertakes the tremendous support and even galvanize U.S. leadership and engagement in partnership with allies and with partners to shape solutions to global challenges Africa. Its people have a critical role to play in achieving such solutions, Ambassador Tai noted in her discussion.

Nearly the discussants agreed all that will require a combination of private sector activities and governmental actions and one key governmental framework for Africa is the African Continental Free Trade Area (AfCFTA). The free trade area promises deepening economic integration. It creates a single market for goods and services for almost 1.3 billion people across Africa. In fact, the 50 for African Union members have signed the agreement, 42 members have ratified it and 39 have deposited their instruments of ratification.

The Secretary General of the the African Continental Free Trade Area (AfCFTA) during the summit will be able to discuss the way forward. The United States intends to fully engage with Africa as the recent Africa strategy says in a 21st century U.S.-Africa partnership and one aspect of that Africa is a friend shoring, which is to say working with reliable partners. It is noted to work within the framework that provides integration between West Africa and East Africa, between North Africa and Southern Africa.

Within the framework of the African Union agenda, the new generation who wants to build on geopolitical partnership dimension in the regional economic communities and with African countries. The point is that there are symmetries, obviously, between the economy and industrial development trajectory, and between developing and developed countries.

The African Growth and Opportunity Act offers rules and regulations relating to trade agreements, especially tariff liberalization, this is an important aspect for building sustainable economic cooperation between the two regions.

The United States and its partnering institutions (both public and private) can best work together to spearhead continuous complementary work as it relates to both business security for participating actors and investors and including for example, the global African diaspora and beyond industry for things like creative and cultural industries. 

The speakers unanimously confirmed the summit as the highest unique platform to determine the geo-economic centers, examine thoroughly the global priorities and challenges, and concretely design the main directions of U.S.-Africa cooperation. It offers, especially this critical times, an orientation towards the future, at least the next decade, between the African continent and the United States.

U.S.-African Leaders Summit 2022, aims at enhancing cooperation on shared global priorities. The heads of state and leaders from across the African continent will converge in Washington D.C., within the context of the United States-Africa Leaders’ Summit hosted by President Joseph R. Biden, President of the United States of America. 

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The Library Of Africa and The African Diaspora Announces AU20 Writing Project Winners

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The African Union (AU) in partnership with the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP) and the Library Of Africa and The African Diaspora (LOATAD) hosted a residency programme under the AU20 project for established writers from across Africa to produce a piece of work that celebrates the unity and potential of the African continent.

This year, the African Union celebrates its 20th anniversary since the organization’s establishment at the Durban Summit of July 2002. Dubbed AU20, the celebrations have taken place under the theme “Our Africa, Our Future” and focuses on the AU’s initiatives, successes, impact, challenges and the way forward. 

The writers residency took the form of a hybrid programme, with two online meetings in October/November and a two-week physical residency at the Library Of Africa and The African Diaspora (LOATAD) in Accra, Ghana from November 14 – 28.

Catering to the theme “Our Africa, Our Future”, five writers from the continent were tasked to interpret the theme in a broad and expansive way across a selected genre, including fiction, narrative non-fiction and poetry. The piece is pegged between 5,000 and 7,000 words (or five poems for poets) on the theme “Our Africa, Our Future” for the e-book. The final work will be published in an e-book anthology to be released in early 2023.

The AU20 project aims to elevate the profile of the AU in the minds of Africans, particularly the creative community, and better connect the AU to African citizens. Powered by Africa No Filter, the writers residency is a unique contribution towards bringing the African Union closer to the African people by selecting creative professionals who think outside the box, dare to challenge conventions and offer new and original work through their chosen materials, techniques and subject matters.

The Library Of Africa and The African Diaspora (LOATAD) together with the African Union, the UNDP and Africa No Filter have now announced the final winners of the AU20 writing project. Here are the five winners and bit of their professional backgrounds.

i) Nour Kamel from the Arab Republic of Egypt. Nour writes about identity, language, sexuality, queerness, gender, oppression, femininity, trauma, family, lineage, globalization, loss and food. She is the author of the chapbook “Noon” in New-Generation African Poets: A Chapbook Box Set (Sita).

ii) TJ Benson from the Federal Republic of Nigeria. His writing explores the body in the context of memory, migration, utopia and the unconscious self and his works have been exhibited, published in several journals, and shortlisted for awards. The author of three novels, his latest, People Live Here, is out now.

iii) Musih Tedji Xaviere from the Republic of Cameroon. She is a writer, activist, and Moth Storyteller. Her debut novel, These Letters End in Tears, won the 2021 Pontas and JJ Bola Emerging Writer’s Prize. It will be published in the US and UK in 2024 by Catapult and Jacaranda Books.

iv) Tony Mochama from the Republic of Kenya. He is a poet, author and senior journalist at The Nation Media Group. He is a three-time winner of the Burt Awards for African Young Adult Literature and is a recipient of the Miles Morland Writing Scholarship. His futuristic novel, 2063 – Last Mile Bet, was published by Oxford University Press.

v) Sue Nyathi from the Republic of South Africa. She is the author of four novels, her latest, An Angel’s Demise, published in October by Pan Macmillan. A Zimbabwean based in South Africa, she was shortlisted for the 2020 Dublin Literary Award and is a JIAS Fellow ’22.

According to reports, The Library Of Africa and The African Diaspora (LOATAD) received an overwhelming number of applications from across the continent, and the selected writers represent the best of African literary talent as well as the literary future. 

Started in a one-room office, the library attracted significant national and international attention and quickly outgrew itself. In 2020, it re-branded as the Library Of Africa and The African Diaspora and moved to a bigger space that includes a special collections/archive room, a screening room and extensive outdoor event space.

As a complete African library, it has also an archive, a museum, a writing residency and a research facility. It is dedicated to the collection and visualization of authors from Africa and the African diaspora from the late 19th century to the present. 

The library has over 4000 volumes of literary fiction and narrative nonfiction dating from the early 20th century to the present day. From Algeria to Kenya and from Liberia to Zimbabwe, the collections represent the rich diversity of the African continent and its vast Diaspora. 

LOATAD’s focus is on books by writers of African descent including African, African American, Caribbean, Black European, Afro-Latin, and Indigenous writers. The Library Of Africa and The African Diaspora (LOATAD) is located in Accra, Ghana. 

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