AFRICA should accelerate industrialisation to achieve economic development, Secretary for Economic Development and Investment Promotion Dr Desire Sibanda has said. Speaking at the official launch of the Adhoc-Expert Group Meeting organised by the United Nations Economic Commission for Africa in Harare yesterday, Dr Sibanda said industrialisation was a cornerstone for economic development and modernisation. He said Zimbabwe launched the Industrial Development Policy, which envisions a vibrant industrial and manufacturing base, to anchor national economic transformation.
"Our Government strongly believes that a strong manufacturing sector will harness and optimise the benefits of industrial clusters through stronger forward and backward linkages and facilitate export diversification," said Dr Sibanda.
He further outlined Government's commitment to scientific research, technology and innovation in industrialisation, as reflected in the industrial policy which outlines strategies to promote advances in science and technology and endeavours to ensure that annual expenditure for research and development should be at least 2 percent of the gross domestic product.
Dr Sibanda said the Industrial Development Policy focused on capacitating industry for enhanced value addition to mineral and non-mineral commodities to translate the comparative advantage in resource endowments into a competitive industrial base.
Meanwhile, UNECA Southern Africa regional office director Ms Beatrice Kiraso said that the sub-region must upgrade and modernise its industrial base to grow and diversify economies which have largely depended on exportation of primary commodities.
"The sub-region has registered markedly improved growth in recent years," she said. "However, many member states' economies are still characterised by underdeveloped and narrow-base production structures as well as primary commodity-dependent growth."
Ms Kiraso noted that while Southern Africa had a huge market, primary commodity dependence has hindered the countries from reaping the benefits of regional integration. She cited intra-Sadc trade volumes which stand at less than 10 percent of total foreign trade by the region notwithstanding the existence of enabling legislation at a regional level.
Ms Kiraso added that in order for Southern Africa to develop and expand its industrial base, the sub-region would need to address factors affecting competitiveness of the economies including prudent regulation of private institutions, ensuring transparency in public institutions, widespread inefficiencies in goods markets, poor financial market development and weaknesses in social policy.
"Addressing these challenges should create a conducive environment for industrialisation backed by a stable macro-economic environment, supportive infrastructure and appropriate institutions," she said.
The two-day ad-hoc expert group meeting precedes the 19th session of the Intergovernmental Committee of Experts (ICE), a statutory meeting which brings together member states to discuss economic and social conditions in the region. The ICE will take place from March 7 to 8 at the Rainbow Towers. In addition to Sadc member states, the meeting will be attended by delegates from intergovernmental organisations, the private sector and civil society. It is the first time Zimbabwe is hosting both meetings.