African economies urged to industrialise

12 November 2014

A central theme of the inaugural African Economic Expansion Summit, in Durban, on Tuesday was that economic consolidation is essential for Africa to take its rightful place among the top global economies.

Trade and Industry Deputy Minister Mzwandile Masina cautioned that economic development on the continent could not be limited to a single country.

With Africa holding 60% of the world’s arable land, African governments must develop their agricultural potential and persuade subsistence farmers to become commercial operations. Fiscal policy that included preferential procurement was important.

Infrastructure investment had to focus on boosting the African economy, he stressed. Rail, road and air linkages were particularly important.

He said the South African government’s spending of billions of rands on infrastructure upgrades provided an opportunity for business to interact with the public sector to ensure that infrastructure development across the continent took place to develop intra-African trade.

KwaZulu-Natal MEC for Economic Development, Tourism & Environmental Affairs Michael Mabuyakhulu said bold action was needed to change Africa. A positive aspect was that African economies had been least affected by the 2008 global economic downturn, with ten of the fastest-growing economies found in Africa.

He said about 50% of the youth in Africa (133-million), were illiterate and those with education often had irrelevant skills. Thus, a large portion of the African population was either unemployed or underemployed and a crisis was brewing.

On economic diversification he said: “Commodities have a limited life span and we must beneficiate our raw materials. We must eradicate practices that see raw materials procured in Africa sold back at three times the original price.”

Mabuyakhulu felt that only through intercontinental growth could African countries develop comparative advantage and that progress towards developing a common market with a total gross domestic product of $60-trillion and access to over 60-million people was crucial.

By: Shirley Le Guern

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