The COVID-19 crisis impacted on Africa “well before the pandemic spread across the continent”, the UN chief said on Friday, marking Africa Industrialisation Day, arriving at a point when many economies were expanding and “poverty was declining”.
“Technology and innovation were being embraced across the continent, and progress had been made in unity and economic integration,” the UN Secretary-General, Antonio Guterres, added.
Moreover, the entry into force of the African Continental Free Trade Area (AfCFTA) promised “a strong boost” in trade between nations.
However, the prolonged pandemic has taken a sizable toll on economic activity and pushed the region into its first recession in 25 years, according to UN figures.
While Africa faces both challenges and opportunities when it comes to trade, building a sustainable path to industrialisation is key to driving inclusive economic growth and shared prosperity throughout the continent.
There have been falling demand for African commodities and products, disruptions in trade and travel, reduced remittances and foreign investment, and vast job and income losses.
Besides, the combination of domestic lockdowns and lower external demand, due to the global recession, weighed heavily on the industrial sector.
Guterres underscored the need to work for the realisation of the objectives of the Third Industrial Development Decade for Africa — from 2016 to 2025 — and follow the roadmaps laid out by the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development and Africa’s Agenda 2063.
“The response to the COVID-19 crisis offers an opportunity to redress structural inequalities and vulnerabilities and promote transformative change for a more resilient Africa,” he said.
Industry can enhance productivity, increase the capabilities of the workforce and generate employment, by introducing new equipment and new techniques.
And with strong linkages to domestic economies, industrialisation will help African countries to achieve high growth rates, diversify their economies and reduce their exposure to external shocks.
“On Africa Industrialisation Day, I reaffirm the commitment of the United Nations system to support inclusive, resilient and sustainable industrial development in Africa,” Guterres said.
“All farmers should have access to innovation and digital resources to transform agri-food systems and achieve rural development,” said QU Dongyu, chief of the Food and Agriculture Organisation (FAO).
“Let’s grow, nourish and sustain together for a modern and sustainable African agriculture!!”
The UN Industrial Development Organisation (UNIDO) tweeted that “industrialisation helps African countries achieve high growth rates, diversify economies and reduce exposure to external shocks, such as COVID-19,” pledging its commitment to the third Industrial Development Decade and Agenda 2063.
The UN General Assembly proclaimed Nov. 20 as Africa Industrialization Day in 1989.
Since then, the UN has been organising global events on that day to raise public awareness about the importance of Africa’s industrialisation and the challenges facing the continent.