Forty nine African countries have signed the African Continental Free Trade Area (AfCFTA) agreement to strengthen efforts towards continental unity, regional integration, trade and deeper economic ties. This historic action by African Heads of State and Government is symbolic of the common aspiration to effectively tap in to comparative advantages between countries to reap utmost benefits in trade and to accelerate inclusive growth and sustainable development. AfCTA is critical in ensuring that the development of Africa is people driven through symmetrical synergies across national boundaries. It is time to entrust the development of Africa in the hands of its people. African problems are better understood and can be better solved with the involvement of African people.
For Africa to develop, the continent has to prioritise industrialisation. This blueprint is proven, given the development that has taken place in the global north, immediately following the industrial revolution. China is a recent example of how industry can drive economic transformation. 20th November has been set aside to commemorate Africa Industrialisation Day and this year the theme is focused on “Promoting Regional Value Chains in Africa: A pathway for accelerating Africa’s structural transformation, industrialization and pharmaceutical production.”
Africa must develop its industries (i.e. manufacturing, technology, agriculture, banking and finance, transport, etc.) as this will result in large scale production of goods that will be available to the African consumers at much cheaper rates, and the synergies with the AfCFTA will ensure these goods get to the right market to meet the demand beyond national borders. This is what makes the African industrial development a unique phenomenon as it will benefit from the framework of the AfCFTA by utilising open markets across national boundaries for goods and services.
The setting up of these industries in Africa will result in increased job opportunities for the youths. Unemployment in Africa is very high and affects about 32 million young people. If industrialisation is not prioritised and accelerated at a quick pace, the situation will worsen given the strong correlation between existing population growth and employment opportunities on the continent.Through industrialisation, Africa can guarantee that its people will enjoy a rise in the standard of living. Hence, this will result in good health and well-being, and ensure an increase in productivity.
The industrialisation of Africa is a precursor to benefitting from emerging technologies and artificial intelligence. Advances in modern technologies are occurring at an accelerating pace, ranging from the fields of robotics, nanotechnology and biotechnology to materials science and artificial intelligence. Globally, these technologies are bringing about transformation in all dimensions of life, and this provides an opportunity for Africa to harness these technologies to advance its socio-economic development agenda and position itself as a frontrunner in the 4thIndustrial Revolution. As it transforms into the African Union Development Agency, the NEPAD Agency recognises the role of African youths in science, technology and innovation and the organisation has been involved in developing capacity to position the continent to speed up its development and transformation process using science, technology and innovation.