The African Union Commission (AUC) celebrated the 21st Africa Industrialization Day in Cairo, Egypt, under the theme: “Developing SMEs for Poverty eradication and Job creation for Women and Youth”. The celebration was organized by the Department of Trade and Industry of the African Union Commission in partnership with the United Nations Industrial Development Organization (UNIDO), the United Nations Economic Commission for Africa (UNECA) and the government of Egypt. The purpose of the celebration was to raise global awareness regarding the industrialization challenges faced by the continent and to mobilize both African leaders and International Organizations to advocate for an accelerated industrialization in Africa.
The 21st Africa Industrialization Day was celebrated through a panel discussion that reflected on the progress made, and also shared best practices and lessons learned so far vis-à-vis the Small and Medium-sized Enterprises (SMEs) Development Agenda in Africa. The discussion also listed the achievements and focused on how to overcome the challenges faced by African governments in the quest for industrialization, and in line with the new Visions of Agenda 2063 and the AUC’s 2015 Year of Women Economic Empowerment, focusing on the efforts in order to create decent jobs for Women and Youth.
In his opening remarks, Mr. Nassirou Ba, Economic Affairs Officer at UNECA, pointed out that to generate more employment, African countries need to diversify their production from resource-based to manufacturing. With regards to the theme of the year, Mr. Ba stressed that innovative and technology-based SMEs can provide an interesting platform for expanding outside of domestic borders, and entering intra-regional and international markets. Addressing the critical role played by Women and Youth in SMEs development, the Economic Affairs Officer mentioned that the best empowerment of anyone in the world is economical. “When you have economic power, you can make decisions and choose for yourself”, he emphasized.
In the same vein, Ms. Giovanna Cegile, UNIDO Representative and Director of Regional Office in Egypt underlined the importance of the SMEs in the structural transformation of Africa. She pointed out that there is a strong linkage between the SMEs sector and job creation and insisted that by fostering the SME sector, African countries will experience new opportunities and create decent jobs for Women and Youth. She called for a coherent effort from the International Community towards Africa’s industrialization agenda.
Dr. Amany Asfour, President of the Egyptian Business Women Association, observed that Africa’s Agenda 2063 is the only way to achieve industrialization on the Continent. To this end, she stressed that efforts at national, regional and continental levels need to be coordinated.
Representing the Commissioner for Trade and Industry of the AUC, Mrs. Treasure Maphanga, Director of the Department of Trade and Industry, pointed out that more than 90% of the industrial sectors of African countries are SMEs. She highlighted the challenges faced by SMEs and described the sector as a key pillar for poverty reduction in Africa. Mrs. Maphanga underscored that by generating and diversifying incomes and integrating Women and Youth into national, regional and international value chains, SMEs are an effective pro-poor strategy to lead to economic transformation.
H.E. Dr. Martial De-Paul Ikounga, Commissioner for Human Resources, Science and Technology of the AUC, pleaded for more advocacies and more media visibility of the annual Africa Industrialization Day celebration. “The Africa Industrialization Day should be celebrated as a Summit, attended by Heads of State to make the important initiative of the Agenda 2063, a reality”, he said. He furthermore suggested that the Commission should request each Member States to celebrate Africa Industrialization Day. According to the Commissioner, there is no industrialization without SMEs, and Women and Youth are the Development Forces of the continent. He urged the participants to be ambassadors for the promotion of the Africa Industrialization Day and declared open, the celebration.
Source: African Union Commission (AUC)