The Executive Director at the Sahara Group, Tonye Cole, has said the industrialisation of Africa in the next decade must be owned and led by Africans with key support from the private sector as well as regional and multilateral organisations.
Citing the need for a robust "digital infrastructure," Cole urged African leaders to commit to having a digital highway that connects the various nations.
"It will form the basis upon which everything else will thrive. It will unleash jobs for our teeming youths, deliver education to the uttermost corners of the continent, connect farmers and entrepreneurs to the world, deliver healthcare to remote locations and inspire electrification projects across borders."
Cole who is also co-funder of the leading African energy conglomerate, represented the private sector on a panel during a session on Africa at the recently concluded 72nd United Nations General Assembly in New York.
Themed: 'Third Industrial Development Decade for Africa (IDDA3, 2016-2025): From political commitments to actions on the ground,' the session sought to address, among others, the environmental, social and economic challenges and opportunities that the continent faces in its quest for sustainable development.
According to Cole, a strategic digital revolution would also expose abuse and injustice, enhance law enforcement and justice, address inequality and transparency, build strong institutions and foster partnerships towards actualising sustainable development.
"The digital revolution can help develop stronger institutions as well as civil society groups. It can enhance law enforcement and good governance and be a critical component in ensuring free and fair elections," he added.
In 2016 the United Nations Industrial Development Organisation (UNIDO) proclaimed the decade 2016-2025 as IDDA3 following a United Nations General Assembly resolution - signalling the need for collaborative efforts geared towards ensuring the continent fits into plans aimed at realising the 17 SDGs by 2030.
Cole highlighted the continent's youthful population, agriculture and education as avenues that can be explored to foster development in Africa.
He said Sahara Group's corporate responsibility interventions show that people empowerment is critical to achieving industrialisation.
"As we push for industrialisation, let us remember that the foundation for the most successful industry in any society is human capital. It is the educated mind, equipped heart, enhanced intellect and free soul that will come up with ideas that impact society, inventions that liberate humanity and solutions that better our world," he stated.
Cole concluded by remarking that the industrialisation of Africa in the next decade should be a global agenda. "Africa is core and central to achieving the 2030 SDGs and if those goals are to be achieved, it cannot be done without the successful implementation of IDDA3."
The panel was moderated by CNN News anchor, Zain Asher. Introductory remarks were given by Li Yong, Director General, UNIDO, and Ms. Amina Mohammed, former Nigeria's Minister for Environment and Deputy Secretary General of the United Nations.
Speakers on the panel included Mr. Edgar Lungu, President of Zambia, Mr Hailemariam Desalegn, Prime Minister of Ethiopia and Mr. Mokgweetsi Masisi, Vice-President of Botswana, amongs many other notable dignitaries.
Key messages ranged from forging strong partnerships among stakeholders of IDDA3, to building resilient infrastructure, promoting inclusivity, establishing sustainable industrialisation and fostering collaboration and innovation among African countries.