This year’s observance of Africa Industrialization Day takes place at a challenging time. We face a global financial crisis. Food and fertilizer prices are significantly higher than they were two years ago. The accelerating impacts of climate change are becoming more apparent. The full impacts of these crises are not yet known, but some of the effects are being felt already and there is a clear risk that recent improvements in social and economic indicators could be eroded or reversed.
The theme of this year’s observance, “Processing of Raw Materials for Sustainable Growth and Development”, is thus very timely. A slowdown in the global economy will hit exporters of primary products hard.
Primary products account for more than 50 percent of the value of Africa’s exports. This makes the continent especially vulnerable to global economic shocks. It is essential for Africa to be able to process its raw materials into higher-value products, both for domestic consumption and for exports. Malaysia and Thailand, for example, are among the countries that have progressed rapidly by moving into processing their primary and mineral products into high-value-added products.
More than half of Africa’s people are employed in the agricultural sector. This makes it essential to develop the agri-business and agro-processing industries. In many cases, domestic markets already exist for these products. There is also great potential for links with other sectors of the economy, which would provide opportunities for employment and economic growth.
Industrialization has led to broad-based development and economic transformation in other parts of the world. It can and must do the same in Africa. On this Africa Industrialization Day, let us pledge to do our utmost to strengthen African industry so that it can play its rightful, catalytic role in sustainable economic growth and the eradication of poverty.