Infrastructure development and industrialization efforts in Africa

  • May 14, 2017

African experts have discussed industrialization and infrastructure development on the continent with many agreeing more still needs to be done to ensure Africa is able to industrialize and create jobs for its youthful population. In his paper during the regional meeting on innovations in infrastructure development and sustainable industrialization, in Dakar Senegal, Stephen Karingi, Director of the Economic Commission for Africa’s Capacity Development Division, said Africa still faces serious infrastructure short comings, both in terms of access and quality, despite the important contribution it has to leverage industrial potential.

“Albeit with some regional and national disparities, the continent is broadly characterized by poor transportation network,” said Mr. Karingi. “Also, the power that is needed to scale industrial plants remains grossly inadequate and access to ICTs still has a long way to go in most countries although progress has been made over the past few years. His presentation evolved around the nexus between infrastructure development and industrialization, state of infrastructure development and industrialization in Africa and infrastructure development and industrializing efforts in Africa.

“Well-functioning infrastructure assets contribute to increasing cost efficiency by lowering production costs, improving access to larger regional markers, through regional integration, for productive resources and industrial output thereby creating new production, trade and business opportunities,” Mr. Karingi told the high-level meeting. He said good quality infrastructure is a key determinant of countries’ and regions’ attractiveness to foreign direct investment hence the need for the continent to come together to develop infrastructure that will enable its transformation.

Good infrastructure assets also yield education and health outcomes that serve the industrial output. Good water and sanitation facilities result in better health and increased productivity of workers; road networks improve access of patients to hospitals while well-functioning medical centers would have to rely on good electricity supply.

“Good infrastructure assets also yield education and health outcomes that serve the industrial output. Good water and sanitation facilities result in better health and increased productivity of workers; road networks improve access of patients to hospitals while wellfunctioning medical centers would have to rely on good electricity supply,” Mr. Karingi noted. “On the other hand, industrial development of a country would require specific infrastructure which suggests industrialization could also be a catalyst for infrastructure development.” Participants also discussed the state of Africa’s transport network, which remains poor as characterized by low railway density as compared to other regions, access to energy, and CTs performance, noting although the continent has made progress in the past few years, it remains the poorest performing continent in terms of ICT development. Mr. Karingi said Africa like some other developing regions, including Latin America, has recorded a decreasing of industrial and manufacturing contribution to GDP, a situation often referred to as de-industrialization. For example, he said, despite some gains inthe manufacturing sector in recent years, the contribution of the sector to GDP decreased from between 12 to 14 percent in the 1980s and 1990s to nearly 10 percent in recent years.

“The continent has to reverse this trend. Scaling-up the industrial sector is truly critical for Africa to achieve structural reaffirmation ambition that yields jobs to citizens and inclusive and sustainable development for all Africans,” said Mr. Karingi, adding achieving structural transformation of African economies undoubtedly requires improving infrastructure. “Development of supportive policies, industrial and infrastructure, remains critical just as their implementation and coordination at national, regional and international levels.” United Nations Economic and Social Council President, Fredrick Musiiwa Makamure Shava, told participants that it is imperative for Africa to develop the issues of infrastructure, industrialization and innovation. He said today’s agenda was conceived to facilitate the sharing of country-level experiences in infrastructure development and sustainable industrialization as well as lessons learned from regional integration and varied forms of development cooperation in support of it. The broader context of the discussions today was the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development and related SDGs and target, in particular SDG 9 that commits countries to ‘build resilient infrastructure, promote inclusive and sustainable industrialization and foster innovation’.

“Considering your status as experts, I do not need to repeat well-known findings and statistics about the necessity for developing countries to advance infrastructure, industrialization and innovation in the years ahead” said Mr. Shava. “No country has developed without improved performance in these three areas and synergies must be built between them.” This was the first of two meetings ahead of a special ECOSOC high-level meeting that will be held in New York in May on innovations for infrastructure development and promoting sustainable industrialization. The second meeting will be held in Victoria Falls in Zimbabwe in April.

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