UN urges Africa to prioritize manufacturing for sustainable development

NAIROBI. — The United Nations on Tuesday urged African governments to prioritize the manufacturing sector in order to achieve sustainable development.

Emmanuel Kalenzi, representative for Kenya, Eritrea, South Sudan, Comoros and Seychelles at United Nations Industrial Development Organisation (UNIDO), told journalists in Nairobi that in the past, the continent tended to concentrate on the social sectors such as education and health.

“African governments should prioritise productive sectors such as the manufacturing sector because they tend to provide jobs as well as products and services that are needed to support other sectors,” Kalenzi said during celebrations to mark Africa Industrialization Day (AID) 2018.

The AID was adopted by the UN General Assembly in 1989 with the objective to reach out to African leaders and to mobilize partnerships necessary for the development of industry on the continent.

This year’s theme is “Promoting Regional Value Chains in Africa: A pathway for accelerating Africa’s structural transformation, industrialization and pharmaceutical production.”

Kalenzi said the event is special as it comes at a time when UNIDO is pursuing the implementation of the Third Industrial Development Decade for Africa (IDDA III), while in Kenya the government has prioritized manufacturing as one of President Uhuru Kenyatta’s Big Four Agenda, a development blueprint.

Kalenzi said that most African nations were in a crisis when they achieved independence from the colonial governments.

“They therefore sought to address immediate social needs such as the provision of basic social and infrastructure services to the population,” he added.

The UN official noted that on average the contribution of the manufacturing sector to the gross domestic product (GDP) of Africa is lower than that of most regions of the world.

Peter Munya, cabinet secretary at Kenya’s Ministry of Industry, Trade and Cooperatives, said that over the past ten years, Kenya’s manufacturing base has remained static at 11 percent of the country’s GDP, and its industrial exports have decreased in absolute terms.

“It is for this reason that efforts are now being rallied under President Uhuru Kenyatta’s the Big Four Agenda that among other pillars seek to increase the GDP contribution of the manufacturing sector to 15 percent by the year 2022,” Munya said.

He added that Kenya aims to expand the manufacturing sector through boosting local production, expanding to the regional market as well as taking advantage of global market niches.

He said that so far Kenya has identified opportunities and sectors that will more than double the amount of current formal manufacturing sector jobs to approximately 700,000 and add 205.4 billion Kenya shillings (about 2 billion U.S. dollars) to 3 billion dollars to the GDP.

He revealed that some of the opportunities and sectors identified include the promotion of value addition in agro-processing, textiles, leather, construction services and materials, automotive, pharmaceutical, oil and gas, mining services and Information Technology Communication (ICT) related sectors that build on comparative advantages.

He noted that the government is keen to expand medium, small and micro enterprises (MSMEs) by supporting rising stars and addressing challenges affecting the sector.

Betty Maina, principal secretary in the Ministry of Industry, Trade and Cooperatives, said that Kenya also plans to create an enabling environment to accelerate industrial development through industrial parks and zones along infrastructure corridors.

Maina noted that the government has also stepped up efforts in dealing with illicit trade and substandard goods. – Xinhua

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