An the occasion of the 17th Extraordinary Session of the African Union Conference on Industrialization, Moussa Faki Mahamat pleaded for “a Renewed commitment to Inclusive and Sustainable Industrialisation and Economic Diversification”.
By Moussa Faki Mahamat
Three years after the inaugural meeting of the Annual Coordination Meeting between the AU and the Regional Economic Communities and the Regional Mechanisms, the beautiful city of Niamey has, once again, mobilised itself to host this Extraordinary session of the AU Assembly, devoted to Industrialisation and Economic Diversification and the African Continental Free Trade Area (AfCFTA).
First of all, I would like to express my grateful thanks and those of the entire AU Commission to H.E. Mohamed Bazoum, President of the Republic of Niger, for the warm welcome and the good working conditions made available to us to ensure that our deliberations proceed productively and harmoniously. May he convey these words of gratitude and satisfaction to the Government and the brotherly people of Niger.
May I also seize this solemn opportunity to renew the gratitude of the African Union Commission to H.E Mahamadou Issoufou, in his capacity as Champion for the African Continental Free Trade Area. His commitment and dedication, haloed with proven know-how, have largely contributed to bringing the African Continental Free Trade Area out of limbo and raising it to its operational baptismal font.
Ladies and Gentlemen,
The Theme of our meeting, “Industrialising Africa: a Renewed commitment to Inclusive and Sustainable Industrialisation and Economic Diversification” combines two perspectives on the issue of the industrialisation of the Continent. The first look is retrospective, the second one prospective.
The retrospection is confirmed by the renewed commitment to industrialisation. Our leaders, your Excellencies, have never failed to grant strategic value to industry by positioning it as both a major objective and a salutary means in the quest for economic transformation.
This positioning was manifested by the proclamation of the First, Second and Third Industrial Development Decades of Africa as well as by the adoption of successive strategies. The most recent of these, dating from 2008, is the Strategy for the Implementation of the Plan of Action for the Accelerated Industrial Development of Africa, known by the acronym “AIDA”.
All these industrialisation policies, developed over decades and adopted by the Policy organs of the African Union, have not always produced significant results. Acknowledging this is a motivation to transcend ourselves in our efforts to improve our results.
While undeniable significant progress has been observed in some Member States, in others the industrial sector has stagnated if not regressed. It represents, on average, only less than 15% in the Gross Domestic Product. Moreover, the exported products have only a very low technological content. These underperformances challenge us doubly, as Member States and as a Continental Organisation.
The forward-looking eye that we are about to cast on the process of industrialisation of our Continent should, therefore, be nurtured, on the one hand, by questioning the past, on the identification of the factors that have weighed down Africa in its march towards industrialisation and on the other hand, on the major trends, the ruptures and the seeds of change, which are in the process of shaping the future of the world economy.
Indeed, the prospective scenarios of the world economy will be influenced by the population growth currently estimated at 8 billion inhabitants, the acceleration of the technological changes in progress, the pressure of Climate Change, the securing of access to sources energy, the risks linked to the globalisation of finance, the heightening of security tensions due to the disastrous consequences of Terrorism and challenges to food security, the deterioration of climatic conditions and so on.
It is within this framework that we should, today, rethink the industrialisation model of Africa. The decisive challenge, in the choice to industrialise, lies in the objective consideration of all of our potentialities and in the relevance of the arbitrations between a plurality of schemes.
Ladies and Gentlemen,
Classically, the gateway to industrialisation opens onto Agriculture, for which Africa has enormous potential. The transformation of the Agricultural sector, through the Malabo Declaration, should make it possible to increase productivity, which would result in the reduction of imports of food products, estimated at 15 billion Dollars per year and would free up human and financial resources for development. of the industry.
Energy, an important variable in any industrial activity, acting both as a production and competitiveness factor, determines, depending on the level of its availability, the choice to be made for industrialisation. In Africa, investment in energy could operate as a vector of Regional integration and promotion of industry when we know that energy consumption remains very low on the Continent. More than 600 million Africans have never known electricity!
Certainly, our industrialisation efforts will focus primarily on the
processing of our natural resources. This understandable option will, however, be forced to build a bridge towards the dazzling advances of the 4th Industrial revolution, which mobilises advanced technologies, based on the various components of artificial intelligence.
Ladies and Gentlemen,
Beyond the sectoral priorities to be determined, according to the specificities and potentialities of each country, the industrialisation process would benefit by being considered within a logic of complementary and horizontal diversification between the Member States.
The translation of these choices into reality is subordinated to a positive interaction between the dynamics of the internal reforms already initiated and the external dynamics.
Internally, industrialisation, associated with economic diversification, will upset all public policies to reconfigure them, in accordance with its own requirements, whether in terms of education and training policies, the business climate, standards and compliance, investment, competition, intellectual property and so on.
These adjustments, to be made internally, are compounded by the
effects, not always happy, of external dynamics. The latter remains decisive for the industrialisation of African countries. It makes it possible to achieve the necessary economies of scale to improve production and exports, attract external financing to compensate for the shortage of domestic savings, integrate into global value chains, strengthen demand for technology transfer, develop Intra-African trade, through the various levers offered by the AfCFTA, whose progress I welcome. The Report of President Issoufou and that of the Extraordinary session of the Council of African Ministers of Trade, will shed more light on this.
Beyond all these known dimensions that I have just recalled, I retain that industrialisation, economic diversification, the AfCFTA are certainly decisive. However, it remains firmly established that the huge difficulties to be ironed out, both at the level of basic infrastructure and at the legal and technical levels, will never be overcome without strong political will. This condition has only one name: our unity and the strength of our transformative determination. It is up to Africa to arm itself with this will.
The day it does it, industrialisation and the AfCFTA will have become these two builders of the Africa we want: an integrated, prosperous and peaceful Africa.
I thank you for your kind attention.