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The Future of Industrialization in a Post-Pandemic World: Industrial Development Report 2022

01 December 2021


VIENNA, 1 December 2021 - The United Nations Industrial Development Organization (UNIDO) has launched its 2022 Industrial Development Report (IDR), The Future of Industrialization in a Post-pandemic World, at a plenary event of the nineteenth session of the UNIDO General Conference. The main findings of the report were presented and discussed with a panel of high-level policymakers and prominent experts in the field of industrial development.

The COVID-19 pandemic has had, and continues to have, devastating effects on economies and societies, threatening to undo years of progress towards achieving the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development. Opening the event, UNIDO’s Director General, LI Yong, asserted that we are living in a time of exceptional challenges and called for an active engagement in fostering an inclusive and sustainable recovery in the post-pandemic. “The imperative of accelerating efforts to achieve the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development has never been more urgent,” he said.

The IDR 2022 documents the socio-economic impact of the COVID-19 pandemic on different regions and countries of the world and examines the role played by the industrial sector during the crisis. The report shows that the COVID-19 pandemic hit hard all corners of the globe, but affected some countries, industries and workers more than others. It presents fresh quantitative and qualitative evidence and identifies key factors of resilience, as well as vulnerability. Understanding these factors is crucial in the design of industrial recovery strategies and policies.

One key finding is that the industrial sector plays a key role in fostering socioeconomic resilience. By guaranteeing access to essential goods, such as food and medicines and vaccines, manufacturing keeps economies afloat and drives them forward. As stressed by UNIDO’s Deputy Director General, Hiroshi Kuniyoshi, in his presentation of the main findings and messages of the IDR 2022, “Countries with stronger manufacturing systems were able to withstand the crisis better.”

These findings strongly reaffirm the importance of achieving SDG 9 to reach the goals of the 2030 Agenda. The role of the industrial sector during the crisis was also remarked on by Victoria Hernández Mora, Costa Rica's Minister of Economy, Industry and Commerce. “In Costa Rica, industry was the least affected economic sector” she said, recognizing the importance of a proactive private-public collaboration in developing containment measures to allow industries operate safely.  

Another key finding of the IDR 2022 is that industrial capabilities and digitalization supported countries’ resilience during the pandemic. According to the report, digital technologies enable businesses to continue operating remotely and to maintain their consumer bases, making digitally advanced firms better able to weather the pandemic’s impact and to adjust to the new normality. Preparing for the post-pandemic future therefore requires also developing countries to further strengthen their digital capabilities.

“This new digital revolution represents a window of opportunity for countries in the global South” said Fu Xiaolan, Funding Director of the University of Oxford’s Technology and Management Centre for Development. “UNIDO can lead the acceleration of industrial digital transformation in developing countries, in collaboration with other agencies and task forces.

Looking into the future, the IDR 2022 highlights three important megatrends expected to shape the post-pandemic landscape - digitalization, production rebalancing and industrial greening - and emphasizes that countries must take these megatrends into account when designing recovery strategies. According to the report, to build back better, recovery must be green and inclusive, pursuing a more sustainable and safer path of development. Countries need to accelerate the shift to a green industrial sector and to transform their energy systems, as indicated by Jeffrey Sachs, President of the United Nations Sustainable Development Social Solutions Network. “It is necessary to overcome the challenges to move from fossil fuels to renewable sources and zero carbon power generation,” he added, “but to do so developing countries need more access to adequate financing and technologies.

At the same time, the recovery strategies should protect those who have been most affected by the crisis, such as small- and medium-sized enterprises, women, youth and informal workers. “We strongly support the acceleration of the digital revolution in micro, small and medium enterprises and help them overcome the digital divide”, said Costa Rica's Mora in her intervention, “and the increase of women insertion in labour market through to the possibility of remote working.”

Based on its main findings, the IDR 2022 provides policy recommendations and calls the international community to act promptly and vigorously to build a better post-COVID-19 future. Discussing the global nature of the economic crisis resulting from the COVID-19 pandemic and the need to accelerate the global production and provision of vaccines, Fu, Funding Director of the University of Oxford’s Technology and Management Centre for Development emphasized the need for renewed international commitments and collaboration mechanisms. She said, “The acceleration of the global rollout of vaccine is crucial in defeating the pandemic and build back better. International partnerships involving countries, international organizations and pharmaceutical companies can be an effective mechanism to accelerate the technology transfer for global vaccine”, adding, “We should not waste this opportunity.”

The Industrial Development Report series is an established source of reference on industrial development. Earlier editions examined the driving forces of industrial development. They also described the reasons why industrialization is a major engine of economic development and key for the achievement of the Sustainable Development Goals.

See the IDR 2022 here.