Press Releases

    19 November 1999

    General Assembly President, on Africa Industrialization Day, Reflects On Progress of Industry in Continent of
    "Vast, Untapped Potential"

    NEW YORK, 19 November (UN Headquarters) -- Following is the statement of the President of the General Assembly, Theo-Ben Gurirab (Namibia) on the occasion of Africa Industrialization Day, 19 November:

    Within the framework of the Second Industrial Development Decade for Africa, from 1993 to 2003, the General Assembly proclaimed this Africa Industrialization Day. I wish to say a few words to mark the occasion, which offers a unique opportunity to reflect on the progress of industry in a continent of vast, untapped potential.

    At the onset of the first Industrial Development Decade for Africa (1981-1999), industry in Africa was in a precarious state, with very little flow of foreign direct investments to this sector. Today, after years of decline in manufacturing output, basic industries are slowly being revitalized and there has been an upsurge in industrial production in many countries of the subregions of Africa.

    With the globalization of economic activities, Africa faces a number of challenges. The continent has yet to adequately define workable policies and structures to meet the demands of the changing global business environment. At the same time, there are opportunities for African countries to establish meaningful alliances with other countries in Europe, Asia and the Americas. For example, the United States Trade and Investment Initiative for Africa could contribute significantly in transforming the agro-based industrial sector in Africa, thereby creating avenues for income generation and, invariably, poverty eradication.

    Whereas in the 1960s, the critical factor inputs for industrialization in Africa were capital and skilled labour, today, as we approach the new millennium, one of the major challenges to the African countries is access to technology, in particular information technology, which would have an impact on policy development, determine products for markets and improve industrial competitiveness.

    For Africa to become a competitive partner in the global economy, concrete steps need to be taken to transform the continent’s enormous natural resources into manufactured products that will satisfy the basic needs of its peoples. In this regard, African countries, with the support of the development partners and the multilateral agencies, should redouble their efforts in developing small- and medium-size enterprises throughout the continent. In recent years, there has been much emphasis on good governance, including macroeconomic management. However, good governance and macroeconomic management, per se, will not transform the industrial landscape of Africa. Nor will they put in place the fundamental prerequisites for partnership in a globalized economy.

    The role of the private sector in economic development, particularly industrial development, is widely acknowledged as a critical factor. Many African economies are slowly being transformed from a public-sector-driven economy into private-sector-led reconstruction and development. But, the private sector needs the support of governments in terms of ensuring that the enabling environment in which they operate is conducive to productivity and growth. In addition, the governments should support research and development aimed at adding value to natural resources, especially agricultural raw materials.

    The private sector is expected to play a lead role in Africa’s industrialization, yet, in most cases, it is extremely weak, has limited access to finance and technology, is unaccustomed to global business management and, for a number of exogenous factors, has not quite succeeded in establishing strategic alliances with the business community in Europe, Asia and the Americas. Nevertheless, this sector’s role in Africa’s industrialization has to be sustained. Governments and the international community have taken many initiatives at the country level to strengthen the capacities and resource base of the private sector to effectively participate in the industrial development process of the continent. I would like to commend African countries and their international cooperating partners for the new thrust that has been given to private sector development in the continent through smart partnership for a win-win outcome.

    The theme that has been chosen to herald the millennium, in my view, succinctly summarizes the efforts of African countries throughout this century and gives a meaningful assessment of the priority needs of Africa, as well as full recognition of where its comparative advantages lie. The theme, "From farm to factory for a better future", embodies my firm belief that Africa, with its endowment of diverse agricultural resources -- most of which are industrial raw materials that could be transformed to provide adequate food for the peoples of Africa -- could simultaneously improve agricultural productivity, as well as increasing utilization of its manufacturing capacity for food security.

    In this connection, the organizations of the United Nations system, in particular, the United Nations Industrial Development Organization, the Economic Commission for Africa and the Food and Agricultural Organization, must work closely together in helping Africa to successfully produce agricultural raw materials on a sustainable basis. They should also assist African countries in effectively and efficiently processing such raw materials at the national and subregional levels, to ensure a stable source of income for the majority of the farming communities in Africa and provide employment for both the rural and urban populations at the factory level.

    It now remains for me to, once again, bring to the attention of the international community Africa’s efforts, its problems and constraints, and the challenges the continent faces in an increasingly globalized society, including in particular the challenge of African debt cancellation. I am confident that the international community will step up its support to Africa in the coming millennium, and that governments and the private sector in Africa will succeed in building a better future for its peoples.

    In concluding, let me remind all delegations of resolution 53/92 dated 16 December 1998, requesting the President, in preparation of the agenda of the fifty-fourth session of the General Assembly, to establish an open-ended ad hoc working group to monitor the implementation of that resolution and, in particular, the recommendations of the Secretary-General on the causes of conflict and the promotion of durable peace and sustainable development in Africa. To this end, I have started consultations concerning the implementation of that resolution.

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