The African Union Commission (AUC) and partners are set for the second annual Africa Industrialization Week (AIW 2019), holding exactly a week from today, November 18-22, under the theme: “Positioning African Industry to Supply the African Continental Free Trade Area (AfCFTA) Market,” in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia.
It was exactly 30 years ago that the 25th Ordinary Session of the Assembly of Heads of State and Government of the now defunct Organization of African Unity (OAU) declared November 20 as Africa Industrialization Day (AID). AID, which was first observed on November 20, 1990, represents a unique platform for enhancing international cooperation and dialogue on the pan-African industrialization agenda, as well as raising awareness on the opportunities and challenges associated with Africa’s industrialisation drive.
Since 1990, AID celebration has continued to attract African leaders, policymakers, the private sector, academia, international financial institutions (IFIs) as well as development cooperation partners. The celebration – which was upgraded to a weeklong event in 2018 and retitled Africa Industrialisation Week (AIW) – highlights the continued relevance of industrialisation including manufacturing and mining in Africa’s economic transformation and development agenda.
Earlier in 2008, Heads of State and Government (HOS/G) of the AU had endorsed the Accelerated Industrial Development of Africa (AIDA) programme, as Africa’s main normative framework for continental industrialization, aimed at fast-tracking economic integration and industrial development, under the First Ten Year Implementation Plan (FTYIP) of Agenda 2063 (2013 – 2023). A decade later, the Africa Continental Free Trade Area (AfCFTA) was adopted by the AU HOS/G in March 2018, in Kigali, Rwanda. The emergence of this two flagship normative frameworks has more than ever, placed Africa on the path to trade liberalisation and industrialisation.
Consequently, the Africa Industrialisation Week 2019, which seeks to build upon the achievements of the inaugural 2018 Africa Industrialization Week – and comes, months after the operationalization of the AfCFTA in July 2019 – couldn’t have come at a better time. With the AfCFTA marshalling a free trade area of US$3.4 trillion and a consumer base of 1.27 billion people, AIW2019 seeks to accelerate the realisation of Africa’s industrial development and economic integration agendas, as enshrined in the vision of the African Economic Community (AEC).
“We have celebrated the Africa Industrialisation Day since 1990 following a declaration by the HoS/G in 1989 that we dedicate a day to doing so: November 20. Later the UN also proclaimed the same date. The weeklong celebrations only commenced in 2018, when we realised the need to reach out to more stakeholders and deepen the political advocacy on the industrialisation of Africa,” said Rongai Chizema, chief technical advisor and head of AIDA Implementation and Coordination Unit (ICU) at the African Union Commission.
Themed: “Positioning African Industry to Supply the African Continental Free Trade Area (AfCFTA) Market,” AIW 2019 is being organized by the AU Commission in collaboration with the United Nations Economic Commission for Africa (UNECA); the United Nations Industrial Development Organization (UNIDO); the United Nations Conference on Trade and Development (UNCTAD) as well as the Geneva-based International Trade Centre, (ITC). Others are the European Union; Ethiopian Ministry of Trade and Industry (MoTI); the Africa Korea Foundation; the Africa Free Zones Organisation (AFZO) as well as the German development agency (GIZ).
Amongst others, the key objectives of AIW 2019 are: mobilizing both African and leaders from the rest of the world, including international development organizations to advocate for the accelerated, sustainable and inclusive industrialization of Africa; promotion of startups, small and medium sized enterprises/industries (SMEIs) cum established middle and high-cap enterprises to strengthen the continent’s capacity to integrate into the global production and trading system.
Other objectives are providing a platform for public-private engagement between industrial policymakers, the private sector, civil society, and development cooperation partners, as they endeavour to share ideas on how to shape the continent’s industrialization agenda; as well as the development of a continental strategy on the automotive value chain to catalyse Africa’s industrialization, amongst others.
By leveraging public-private dialogue platforms, AIW 2019 seeks to engender coherence in development of industrial policies in Africa; enhance effective engagement of key stakeholders by the AU on industrialization and trade issues, in the context of the AfCFTA; intensify synergies between the private and public sectors as they interface with global capital and technology; as well as explore the possibilities of a new model of developing Africa’s productive capacities to boost intra-African trade.
“AIW 2019 is a very strategic platform for showcasing Africa’s industrialisation efforts. It brings together industry policy makers, private sector, civil society, and development partners to share knowledge and experiences on how to address the continent’s industrialisation challenges. The diversity of stakeholders provides unlimited scope to unleash robust intellectual discussions and practical narratives on the subject of industrialisation in Africa. Africa is on the rise; we can only sell the narrative when we create a platform that allows us to deliver the evidence. AIW2019 provides such a podium,” said Chizema.
Amongst others, the series of weeklong activities holding at the AU headquarters in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia, will include a high-level Africa Industrialisation Day commemorative event on November 20; which will be attended by Heads of State and Government (HoS/G) of the African Union, senior public officers, and development cooperation partners.
“The participation of political leaders lends credence to the discernable and ever-growing political will exuded by our leaders. The launch of the Operational Phase of the AfCFTA in July 2019 at Niamey, Niger on the back of 27 ratifications of the Agreement and 54 signatures is a big feat for Africa. This game changing pan-African liberal trade-inducing continental statute (AfCFTA) is an indication of the resurgence of political will geared beyond political independence, towards economic emancipation,” said Chizema.
In the course of the week, there will also be series of events around key subjects of the continent’s industrialisation, to be hosted by the African Union Commission (AUC) and partners, namely: African Automotive Value Chain Forum; African Fashion Value Chain Forum; as well as the Africa-Korea Youth Forum and the Africa-Korea Business Forum.
AIW 2019 will also feature the African Union Commission Symposium on Special Economic Zones and Green Industrialization; the 4th General Assembly and Annual Meeting of the Africa Free Zones Organization; the World Export Development Forum (WEDF) alongside She Trades Global 2019; and the China-Ethiopia Investment Meetings, amongst others. The event will also witness exhibitions by African start-ups; as well as Small and Medium Enterprises (SMEs) development sessions and Business to Business (B2B) interface sessions, among others.
Against the 300 delegates that participated in AIW 2018, over 1000 delegates will be participating in the Africa Industrialisation Week in 2019; thanks to the traction the AfCFTA has continued to gain since the launch of its operational phase in July, 2019. Who knows? AIW 2019 could just prove the ignition that will stimulate waves of trade and industry related initiatives that will lead to the long-awaited industrialisation of the African continent.
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