From 25th-29th May, 2015, #African Development Bank held its annual meeting in Abidjan. As a young African son, who is passionate about the progress of our dear continent, I embarked on a self sponsored trip to Abidjan in order to have first hand information to topical issues that were discussed, resolutions made and how such can be introduced to my community in Nigeria, hereby strengthening AfDB’s goals.
Many issues were touched, but my focus in this essay is #Africa’s manufacturing power. In coming essays, I plan to write on Corruption and Barriers at African borders which have made economic relations difficult between African Citizens. Subsequent essays will also touch on the issue of Gender Equality and Child Abuse in Africa.
Every year, the African Development Bank keeps growing in impact and reaches in ameliorating the Africa society, and the growth is noticeable. Despite major challenges faced by various African nations, where governance is characterized by instability, poor leadership and corruption, in a sustaining manner, institutions like the African Development Bank has consistently played key roles in resolving problems of unemployment, epidemic, free trade barrier, gender inequality among others.
Africa is not left out global progression and conversations, currently, the Continent may not level up with other continents in the globe, but the motivating factor is that, Africa is making significant progress in development; we are not there yet, but we are not where we used to be.
It is inspiring to know that Africa, formerly regarded as Continent of despair has changed to a Continent of hope; this milestone is not disconnected from the noticeable economic growth and potentials recorded in Africa, particularly in the last decade.
The 2015 annual meeting of the African Development Bank provided a broad platform for playmakers in Africa to discuss thematic issues in Africa’s development, such as youth empowerment, agricultural development, gender equality, educational development, job creation, economic growth, climate change, health to mention a few. Amongst salient issues discussed, ranging from emotional session where Liberia’s #President Johnson reflected on how Liberia overcame Ebola, expository session on Youth and Agro-Business, challenging discourse on gender equality e.t.c., discussions on Africa’s economic progress seemed to have received more attention and a key outcome of deliberations on Africa’s economy is “increasing Africa’s manufacturing power.”
Not limited to these, however, four critical sectors must be considered in enabling economic growth in the Continent: Education, Agriculture, Health, and Energy. First, the level of a nation/continent’s education will determine its level of growth; no nation can grow beyond its level of education because education is the bedrock of progress. Standard of education must be improved through updated curriculum, infrastructures, girl child education, good rewards for teachers and security for students and the learning environment as a whole.
Secondly, agriculture has always been with man, it provides the wealth a nation can call its own, agriculture has never failed humanity. It has the capacity to generate more employment.
Thirdly, a healthy nation is a wealthy nation. Assessing the resulting effects of an epidemic like Ebola on the economies of affected countries, foreign investors withdrew in droves from worst-hit countries in West Africa, ArcelorMittal, the world’s leading steelmaker, moved its expatriate staff out of Liberia. London Mining, a British company, also removed staff from Sierra Leone.
Without iron ore, Sierra Leone’s growth output, which was 20% in 2013, will fall to 5.5%, according to the International Monetary Fund (IMF), stressing how critical the iron ore sector is to the country’s economy. Fearing for staff safety, a number of international non-governmental organizations in Liberia have also closed their operations according to a United Nations report. Fourthly, energy! It is quite apparent that economic growth is inextricably linked to energy. As energy is tied to our economy, our future is dependent upon equitable access to energy.
That improvement in manufacturing power will create more jobs and boost Africa’s economy appeared to be a major inference emphasized during #the 2015 African Development Bank annual meeting. Africa is endowed with fertile soil, mineral resources, passionate and energetic people, and raw materials, yet the continent’s current production capacity is only compared to that of a country in Europe. Africa has a population of 1 billion, with 40 percent in the city, the main problem remains unemployment.
Unfortunately, governments of many African nations have been unable to provide enough jobs to meet the demand of the growing population. It has been projected that 17 million jobs must be created in the Continent annually to fight unemployment. Apparently, to meet this target, Africa’s manufacturing power must be increased to create more jobs.
Economic successes of China, Japan among others places priority on manufacturing as means of creating more employment and wealth. Africa consumes more than it produces, and we need to realize that our dependence on foreign products could cripple our economy because supply constraints or disruption to importation of those products could derail economic activity. It should be an imperative for Africa to intensify manufacturing in order to improve its economy.
With rapid growth in production in different sectors, more jobs will be created and Africa’s wealth will no longer travel abroad. By 2050, Africa’s population is projected to be at 2billion, this is only less than four decades away. More focus must be channelled towards increasing manufacturers in Africa as a means of creating more jobs and wealth for the continent. Increasing the manufacturing power of Africa isn’t something that will be delivered to Africans; Africans have to work tenaciously to intensify processing of its raw materials into finished products for export.
Some of the key areas of focus include agriculture, information technology, engineering, media and entertainment. The fascinating development is that, many young Africans are responding to this challenge. More young entrepreneurs and manufacturers are emerging in Africa; this explains why government and financial institutions should work together in infrastructural development and financial packages for young manufacturers in across Africa.
Following a framework I champion my local community in Nigeria tagged “One Nigerian, One Product” designed to inspire young manufacturers in agriculture, textile and fashion designing, information technology, interior designs, shoe making, among others. The project targeted at Nigerians in tertiary institutions can be replicated in the African context to inspire manufacturers whose emergence will create more jobs. Our identities must be shifted from our ethnicities or religions to what we produce.
To cater for the growing African population, there is a need for a continental initiative that will motivate, inspire and project young producers in various sectors across the Continent. By fetching manufacturers in institutions and local communities and promoting their products, Africa’s manufacturing strength will be driven. We cannot remain a continent that exports raw materials alone, finished products can be exported from Africa to other parts of the world.
#Olawale Rotimi serves as Special Assistant on Media to Rt. Hon. Razak Atunwa.
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