VIENNA, 20 November 2020 - Latin American manufacturing has been hit hard by the COVID-19 pandemic in 2020, with significant decreases in industrial production, intra-regional trade and exports compounding existing barriers to growth. However, accelerated digitalization prompted by the crisis offers an opportunity for transformation, closer intra-regional cooperation and trade integration, according to a webinar panel of experts convened by the Global Manufacturing and Industrialisation Summit (GMIS) Digital Series on “Latin America and the Caribbean: Manufacturing and Economic Growth in the post-Covid-19 Era”.
Silvia Hooker Ortega, Manager of International Affairs at the National Society of Industries in Peru, observed that enterprises in several Latin American countries had re-shored capital, worsening regional trade and production, with a fall of 22 per cent in exports expected regionally. “This challenge consists of rethinking previous models of development and moving towards more sectoral models, where we can invest in capacity-building and research in order to generate regional value chains that allow us to grow in the region, generate decent employment and ensure that a crisis such as the current one does not affect us so drastically in the development of our countries,” observed Hooker Ortega.
Clemente Ruiz Durán, National Researcher of the National Council of Science and Technology (CONACYT) and professor at the National Autonomous University of Mexico, noted that digitalization had allowed the region´s economy to continue functioning. He stated that public investment in digitalization would enable sustainable energy, mobility, communication and transport systems. Ruiz Durán also urged pairing initiatives between micro, small and medium enterprises (MSMEs) and large firms for integration in regional value chains, and training programmes. “I propose to turn our eyes towards Latin America instead of the rest of the world,” he said. “I believe that this is a great opportunity and if we do it well, it can be the beginning of a redefinition of industrial development in Latin America,” concluded Ruiz Durán.
Tomás Karagozian, President, UIA Joven/Unión Industrial Argentina, stressed the importance of a regionalized economy, advocating for increased dialogue and consensus in order to “overcome recurring crises that we go through every four to five years.” Karagozian noted that, while digitalization had accelerated during the pandemic, and the region is poised to benefit from productivity increases, Latin America continues to face issues of management and leadership, and value chain integration. “I believe that we must all work on digitalization and (…) towards stronger and more consolidated productive matrices at local level with a great regional connection, and with global participation in terms of information exchange, digitalization and sharing of experiences,” urged Karagozian.
Concluding the discussion, Diego Masera, Chief of the Regional Coordination Division for Latin America and the Caribbean at the United Nations Industrial Development Organization (UNIDO), said the crisis as an opportunity to move towards sustainability, social equity and the achievement of the Sustainable Development Goals. “Indeed, this crisis provides an opportunity to change our approach to the development of manufacturing in the region. In this regard, we must focus our energies on supporting more inclusive, sustainable and people-centred development,” he urged.
To watch this session on-demand, click here. The Global Manufacturing and Industrialisation Summit (GMIS) is a joint initiative of the Ministry of Industry and Advanced Technology of the United Arab Emirates and the United Nations Industrial Development Organization (UNIDO), which seeks to promote an inclusive and sustainable future of manufacturing through multi-stakeholder dialogue, partnerships and action.
For further information, contact:
Alejandro Rivera-Rojas, Directorate of Digitalization, Technology and Agri-Business, UNIDO.