‘Calls for protectionism, an opportunity for Africa to develop markets’

Abdalla Hamdok. PHOTO: YOUTUBE

As sentiments of protectionism and populism grow louder in Western Europe and America, the United Nations Economic Commission for Africa (UNECA), has urged Nigeria and other African countries not to panic, describing the sentiments as opportunity strategy of developing their markets and value-chains.

Former Acting Executive Secretary of the Economic Commission for Africa (ECA), Abdalla Hamdok, said there’s no need for Africa to panic over such sentiments, instead, they should give the continent an opportunity to re-think and come up with policies that shape its own future in its own way.

The thoughts also reinforced the position of the Manufacturers Association of Nigeria (MAN) that government should refrain from entering into trade agreements that jeopardise the growth of the nation’s real sector.

Speaking during a regional meeting on innovations in infrastructure development, and sustainable industrialisation in Africa, at the Africa Development Week, Hamdok said: “It is not all doom and gloom when you hear those protectionism sentiments. We should use the opportunity to rethink and shape our own future by developing our markets and our value chains.

“Africa needs to work tirelessly on value addition and move away from the model of selling its rich natural resources that do not generate enough financing for the development of the continent.

“We really need to rethink this outdated model of relying on exports of our raw materials where we still have commercial activities going on in villages with no running water and no clinics.” said Hamdok.

He said while designing infrastructure projects that could leverage industrial potential, it is important to integrate value chains – preferably regional value chains and tap into the ongoing efforts towards regional integration in Africa.

“We need to rethink our commodities and link the entire investment in the commodities sector to the development of the continent and provide much-needed financing for development,” he added.

Hamdok said the high-level meeting should come up with concrete recommendations on how Africa should tackle the issues of innovation, industrialization and infrastructure, especially financing mechanisms, including developing, strengthening and deepening financial markets.

Speaking at the same meeting, United Nations Economic and Social Council (ECOSOC) President, Fredrick Shava, said anyone who has spent significant time in Africa knows that the question of infrastructure, industrialisation and innovation was not merely a technical issue.

“It is at the height of the continent’s development plan and if adequately prioritised and supported, can ensure that Africa’s potential is unleashed and that individuals and societies are able to progress and break free from the shackles of deprivation and lack,” said Shava.

He said the potential for Africa was limitless. “Nevertheless, our economies and societies are not creating the quantity or the quality of opportunities needed to meet the demands generated by our rapidly urbanising cities, our youthful population and diverse ecosystems,” he added.

Senegal’s Industry and Mines Minister, Ngouille Ndiaye, said it was crucial for Africa to move with speed to address the challenges affecting its growth, and the creation of inclusive economies.

He said his country is currently implementing a number of policies in its quest to transform its economy.

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