Posted: September 4, 2020
I would like to extend my greetings on behalf of President Ramaphosa and the South African Government to all distinguished participants, including to
- Mr António Guterres, Secretary-General of the United Nations;
- Mr Li Yong, Director-General of UNIDO
- Excellencies, the Heads of State present
- My fellow ministers of trade and industry
- And to leaders of business
Covid-19 caused disruptions to supply-lines of basic medicines and equipment needed to save lives, it imposed huge costs on local economies and it laid bare the challenges the African continent faced even before the pandemic.
Global economic integration comes with clear benefits, through the access to the technologies and innovations from across the world. But the benefits of highly integrated supply-chains come with enormous vulnerabilities when they are disrupted.
If there is to be a legacy from this painful period, it must be to rethink development and indeed build a continental framework for greater economic resilience and industrialisation.
African countries are learning the hard lesson that we cannot remain simply exporters of raw materials and importers of finished goods like medical supplies and processed food products.
We must confront uncomfortable facts and deal with Africa’s position in the global economy.
Africa has 17% of the world’s population, yet only 3% of the world’s GDP, 2% of the global manufacturing output and 1% of global steel production.
There is an urgent need to grow the manufacturing base and shift from a provider simply of raw materials and unprocessed agricultural products to the rest of the world; and an importer of consumer goods.
Dear friends, it is said that Africa does not produce what it consumes; and Africa does not consume what it produces.
This is highlighted in trade, where less than 13% of goods imported by African countries in 2019 were supplied by other African countries.
Developing a manufacturing base in a competitive, globalized world is necessary but will take hard work, drawing in business, government and communities in deep partnerships to create conditions to enable industrialization on scale.
A dynamic manufacturing base increases the economic multiplier in an economy and helps to expand the technological base, creating many more service-sector jobs. It is a key transformer of agricultural and mining output into higher value consumer goods, creating jobs in the process.
There are necessary steps we need to take as Africans; and there are valuable things that can be done by partners and friends outside the continent.
From our side in Africa, we recognise we need to integrate economies to create scale and size can help to foster greater competitiveness. To do this, we have a concluded a treaty setting up an African Continental Free Trade Area, which we call the AfCFTA, covering potentially more than a billion consumers.
Fifty-four countries signed the Agreement and 30 countries have now ratified it and we expect the start of trading under the AFCFTA early in 2021.
The Agreement will fundamentally change and reshape African economies, providing new opportunities for our youth to develop.
Also from our side, we recognise the need also to improve the ease of doing business. There are now a number of initiatives in place, from cross-border infrastructure, to a stable environment, to simplifying rules and reducing red tape.
For example in South Africa we now have a seamless electronic registration of a company, opening of a bank account, securing a web domain name and certification of compliance with local conditions, all accessible from a single portal and capable of being completed within hours, not days or months.
From the side of our partners outside the continent, we need greater levels of foreign direct investment in productive manufacturing and agro-processing businesses, in healthcare products, the digital economy and in green technologies. There are opportunities too for joint ventures with local manufacturers.
Investment builds factories, mines, roads and power supply. It connects people through telecoms infrastructure, and provides the liquidity for new entrepreneurs. It is the life-blood of any economy, and with more of it we can create more jobs and decent jobs.
We need policy space in the World Trade Organisation to pursue policies of industrialisation; and favourable market access arrangements with major economies.
And we need technical partnerships through UN agencies, Government partners and with private corporations, for skills development, research and development and greater innovation. Science and technology is critical to our growth vision.
This must be the time for a Made in Africa, a Proudly Produced in Africa initiative to be at the heart of our efforts in recovering from Covid-19 and industrialising the home of more than one billion citizens of our integrated world.
I thank you!