Press release -
Fostering industrial development in Africa in the new global environment
Milasoa Chérel-Robson, Economic Affairs Officer at the United Nations Conference on Trade and Development(UNCTAD) told those attending the Sussex Development Lecture that African economies must diversify and not become reliant on agriculture.
Presenting findings from UNCTAD's Economic Development in Africa Report 2011, Milasoa opened the lecture by setting the scene. Africa has enjoyed good levels of economic growth despite the global financial crisis and is attracting increasing interest from the international business community. However, concerns exist around the sustainability of these levels of growth if African economies do not undergo a process of structural transformation..
Milasoa highlighted that the report argues that national governments of African countries must develop their manufacturing sectors to tackle unemployment challenges. To do so, they need to adopt a new industrial policy. Such an industrial policy should be the result of a consultative process between the government and the private sector as well as other stakeholders. And yet, the productive sector has historically been neglected, in part due to the pervasive assumption that Africa’s comparative advantage solely lies in its agricultural sector. Milasoa argued that promoting industrial development would also allow to generate spillovers on the agriculture sector as well as build strong linkages with other sectors of the economy, such as services.
As a result of the limited achievements of past policies, Africa accounts for a very low share of global manufacturing, particularly in relation to other developing countries. It is also losing ground in labour intensive and low technology manufacturing to other developing countries. In addition to the need to develop labour intensive industries, Milasoa highlighted that the report identifies amongst other policy measures the need to foster investment in innovation and new technologies.
And finally, Milasoa emphasised that industrial policy making in Africa is likely to be constrained by the rules governing the multilateral trading system if some of the negotiations that are under way do not make sufficient provision for the development needs of African countries beyond Least Developed countries.