The agenda of the meeting of African Ministers of Finance, Planning and Economic Development would focus industrialization in Africa, the Economic Commission for Africa (ECA) said.
The Conference, which would be their 33rd session, will be held virtually between March 17 and 23, 2021, on the theme “Africa’s sustainable industrialization and diversification in the digital era in the context of coronavirus pandemic (COVID-19).”
UN ECA Director of Regional Integration and Trade, Stephen Karingi, said discussions on Africa’s industrialization are relevant at this time coming on the heels of the launch of the African Continental Free Trade Area (AfCFTA).
Mr Karingi said the ministers and experts scheduled to attend the ministerial conference would discuss the need to ensure that digitalization strategies were integrated into the policy and planning frameworks for industrialization of the countries in the continent.
“Industrialization and digitalization recognize Africa’s desire to industrialize and create jobs for the millions of its populace, in particular the youth joining the labour market annually,” the ECA said.
The ECA said the AfCFTA is coming handy during these difficult times where the continent is fighting the ravages of COVID-19.
“It is crucial that our governments establish institutional arrangements for cooperation on the digital economy, and provisions to support digital capacities and industrialization and connect African businesses,” Mr. Karingi said.
The coming into force of the AfCFTA, the ECA said, signaled a unique turning point in the continent’s pursuit of industrialization; with e-commerce, a key catalyst in digitalized economies, being a key cornerstone of the pact’s infrastructure.
A main element of this year’s theme, Mr Karingi noted, was the recognition of the need for African countries to achieve rapid economic growth without exacerbating the environmental cost of development.
This calls for an alignment of development strategies with climate change mitigation measures, recognizing that industrialization while being an effective engine of growth for many developed countries, comes at a high cost to the global climate.
For the ECA, African countries would need to implement development strategies that recognizes that better, safer and more inclusive growth is one that involves strong climate action and efficient use of natural resources.
Also, the theme recognizes that Africa’s developmental path must minimize the aberration of developed nations and instead seek to embrace modernization through digitalization and less climate-costly industrialization activities.
While the COVID-19 pandemic has severely affected Africa’s economy, pushing it into contraction, for the first time in more than 20 years, by an estimated 2 to 5.4 percent of Gross Domestic Product (GDP) in 2020, it has further highlighted the need for accelerating Africa’s digitalization.
“If emerging digitalization can be scaled, it could be transformational, helping Africa to sustainably industrialize and diversify within a global digital economy estimated to be worth more than $11.5 trillion,” the ECA said.
The ECA argues that Africa must embrace environmentally-sustainable industrialization and diversification as a pathway to creating decent jobs for the 170 million African young people set to enter the job market between 2019 and 2030, building forward better from COVID-19 and ensure resilience to future shocks.
Deliberations at the conference will centre on how countries can leverage the rapid technological innovation to foster stronger economic growth and promote sustainability and inclusiveness, against the background of the urgent action that is needed to offset the impact of COVID-19 on Africa’s economies and economic trajectory.
The conference, which will draw seasoned and high-level panellists from within and outside Africa, promises to be very exciting and engaging, with outcome decisions that will have important implications for Africa’s future. (PANA/NAN)