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African industrialization key to cutting poverty, UN officials say

African industrialization key to cutting poverty, UN officials say

While Africa now produces only a fraction of global manufactured goods, industrialization of the continent is critical to reducing poverty there, say top United Nations officials.

Marking Africa Industrialization Day, Secretary-General Kofi Annan noted that over the past 15 years, Africa’s share of world industrial output has remained stagnant, at 1 per cent.

In his message on the Day, commemorated on 20 November, he also pointed to prospects for significant improvements. “While some countries have experienced falling growth rates and have not met their targets for poverty reduction, many others are on course to meet the goal of halving poverty by 2015,” Mr. Annan noted.

But even in those places that have made advances, “a strong and sustained drive to expand and diversify the African economic base through sustainable industrial development, trade and regional market integration will be critical to ensuring the continuation of these results.”

General Assembly President Sheikha Haya Rashed Al Khalifa also noted that Sub-Saharan Africa’s share of world industrial output has remained stagnant at less than 1 per cent. “Its share in South-South manufactured exports, total exports, and medium and high-technology exports has also been declining,” she said, calling for a “concerted push towards viable national and regional strategies for product diversification, and higher value-added exports is crucial to this effort.”

Toward this end, she stressed the importance of the African Productive Capacity Initiative pioneered by the UN Industrial Development Organization (UNIDO). “The key objectives of this important initiative include market access, value addition based on local resources, diversification, technology diffusion, industrial upgrading, regional integration and poverty alleviation through job creation,” she observed.

She also hailed the decision of the African Union to devote its summit in July 2007 to the theme of industrial development, saying this “should give renewed impetus to sustainable industrial growth throughout the continent.”

The General Assembly President noted that this year the Day coincides with UNIDO’s 40th anniversary, and voiced hope that the agency will have “continued success in meeting the challenges of industrial development in the years ahead.”