Sahara Group’s Tonye Cole will join other business leaders the Annual Debate of the Business Council for Africa, which comes up in London on Tuesday, April 24.
A statement Sunday released by Bethel Obioma of Sahara Group’s corporate communications, said the leaders will discuss several issues including driving industrialisation on the continent.
Read full statement below:
Sahara Group urges immediate action towards Africa’s Industrialisation
Sahara Group Co-founder and Executive Director, Tonye Cole, will join high-level African policy-makers, industry leaders and global businesses operating on the continent at the Business Council for Africa (BCA) Annual Debate this Tuesday, April 24.
Cole, 51 will contribute to a discussion on the prospects for the industrialisation of Africa.
Can Africa ride the wave of the fourth industrial revolution or will its systems and institutions betray it and scupper its chances as has occurred in the past?
Prior to 2015, when the continental economy benefited immensely from high commodity prices and a commensurate access to fast money, the importance of industrialisation in Africa was downgraded when in fact efforts to transform the continent through industrialisation and digitisation should have been doubled down as a result of unprecedented levels of financial buoyancy at the time.
According to Cole “Unlike countries such as the UK which experienced a downturn in its manufacturing sector after WW2, African nations are de-industrialising while still poor. We are missing opportunities to create employment and generate wealth by providing blue collar jobs in factories.”
A number of thought leaders and think tanks agree that closer integration across the whole of Africa is needed to aggressively drive diversification through industrialization so that a continent with the fastest growing youth population in the world does not find itself vulnerable to the vicissitudes of systemic boom and bust cycles.
Cole continued, “We must convert our rich commodity base into processed, refined and manufactured goods which create industrial value chains and allow us to become a part of the greater global value chain.“
Amongst the more startling facts about the poor state of industrialisation in Africa is that manufacturing provides a paltry 6% of all jobs on the continent. This figure remained unchanged in almost 30 years leading up to 2008. Comparatively, manufacturing jobs grew from 11% to 16% over the same period in South East Asia.
According to the United Nations Economic Commission for Africa (UNECA), Africa’s growth in 2016, declined to 1.7% (lowest in 10 years) from 3.7% in 2015. It is telling that Africa’s contribution to the world manufacturing export basket is less than 1% and has been in decline since 2010.
Cole also highlighted some opportunities and positive changes already occurring on the continent. Citing the UNECA 2017 report on Industrialisation and Urbanisation for transforming Africa’s Future, he stressed the continued need for gender inclusion and equality. The report highlights the fact that women in Africa are not only entering the labour force in much greater numbers, they are remaining in the labour force throughout their child bearing and child rearing years. This trend augurs well for the future of the manufacturing sector in Africa as the female workforce is positioned to increase overall productivity now more than ever before.
Cole said. “We are greatly buoyed by any trend which moves us closer to realizing our sustainable development goals mandates for gender equality, decent work, economic growth and industry, innovation and infrastructure.”
He concluded by saying, “We still have gaping holes in our systems and institutions as far becoming a fully realized industrialized continent. I anticipate utilizing my personal agency and the BCA podium on Tuesday, to engage like minds, further the conversation and develop workable ideas that can create a timely and palpable impact across our great continent.”