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Monday, 28 January 2013

Industrialization key to Africa’s renaissance, says UNIDO Director General Yumkella

ADDIS ABABA, 28 January 2013 – Africa can realize its economic potential if Africans take the lead in defining the post-2015 development goals, and ensure that private sector wealth and job creation are at the core of the new agenda, a UN official said today. 

Speaking at the 20th African Union Summit in the Ethiopian capital, Addis Ababa, today, Kandeh K. Yumkella, the Director General of the United Nations Industrial Development Organization (UNIDO), delivered a message of hope, opportunity and responsibility.

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“Hope, because there is a positive change happening throughout the continent; opportunity because of the commodity boom; responsibility because we - the African people and our leaders - still need to create 10 million jobs a year for the youth, and lift the over 50 per cent of our peoples who still live below USD 2 per day,” said Yumkella.

“I remain very optimistic about the future of Africa’s development but the continent’s renaissance will depend on political will and on making the right choices.”

He added that growth in most other regions is driven by structural change to manufacturing and value-added services, but “in Africa, growth has been driven by a commodity exports boom. This must change in the next 20 years. We must be the next industrial frontier.”

Yumkella said that increased productivity through moving from reliance on primary commodities to ever-more sophisticated production of manufactures and the development of related service sectors is a proven way of pulling people out of poverty and in driving poorer countries forward.

He described the setting of the post-2015 agenda as a “once in a generation opportunity for Africa to ensure that its economic needs are recognized as a matter of global concern.”

“In addition to universal education, we must call for skills-formation to make the youth employable, or more productive, or to become entrepreneurs themselves; to complement food security, we must call for agribusiness development to create rural wealth to stem the mass migration of people to urban areas; and we must emphasize private sector wealth creation beyond mundane poverty alleviation, for you cannot eradicate poverty without creating wealth,” said Yumkella.

Kandeh K. Yumkella, the first Director General of the United Nations Industrial Development Organization from sub-Saharan Africa, is ending nearly eight years in office in June.

He told the African Union summit, “With your support, we have together raised UNIDO’s profile as a trusted, efficient and effective partner for prosperity. UNIDO is now recognized as an agency with a highly relevant mandate, one that is focused on helping to achieve international development goals, and dedicated to building partnerships within the UN system and beyond.”

The Director General added that during his tenure at UNIDO, there had been a significant increase in the number, types and quality of programmes and projects delivered in Africa, and that all of these activities fit within the overall framework for Africa’s industrial development. He noted the support that UNIDO has given to the African Union’s bi-annual Conference of African Ministers of Industry.

The Organization’s projects cover agribusiness development with a focus on agro-processing, and the EU-endorsed African Agribusiness and Agro-industry Development Initiative (3ADI), which is being implemented in over 13 countries. UNIDO also focuses on trade capacity-building by helping improve quality infrastructure and standards, and has assisted a number of African countries in establishing metrology and standards laboratories, and in training staff.

“Energy programmes with a focus on renewable energy development have been a key priority for us during these eight past years,” added Yumkella. “UNIDO has developed a number of mini-hydro projects and has taken a stand in advocating for much more large-scale investment in energy access for Africa. UNIDO has also assisted many African countries in complying with various multilateral agreements, including the Montreal and Kyoto Protocols, and has developed a major programme on green industry, which holds great potential for this continent.”

UNIDO has been implementing various programmes related to industrial upgrading and small and medium-sized enterprise development in Africa, and the organization has helped establish an Africa-wide investment promotion network.

“With your support, industrial policy development and management have been brought back to their rightful position in the process of economic diversification and structural change of African economies,” said Yumkella.

An additional programme that has been scaled up during Yumkella’s tenure aims to develop and strengthen the local manufacturing of pharmaceuticals in Africa. “It is our hope that the plan will reduce the infiltration of fake drugs into African countries, but more importantly, that it will enhance private investments in the domestic production of essential drugs, lowering the cost of medicines and enhancing people's access to them,” he said.

Yumkella said that in July he will take up a new post as Chief Executive Officer of the UN Secretary-General’s Sustainable Energy for All Initiative, and that in this new capacity he will  work with the AU and NEPAD to promote the Plan for Infrastructure Development in Africa, which has at its core the scaling up of investments in the energy sectors.

“Africa must push for ‘Universal Access to Sustainable Energy’ to become a development goal. It is the means to power wealth and job creation, women’s economic and social empowerment, education, food security and access to clean water,” said Yumkella.

For more information, please contact:

Mikhail Evstafyev
UNIDO Advocacy and Communications Coordinator
Tel. (43-1)-26026-5021
Mobile +43-699-1459-7329
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M.Evstafyev@unido.org