Addis Ababa — The Executive Secretary of the Economic Commission for Africa (ECA) Vera Songwe today said as the African Continental Free Trade Area (AfCFTA) goes into operation next year, the continent must find new sectors and the skills needed to deliver the industrialization to satisfy the aspirations of its youth.
Speaking at the opening of this year's Africa Industrialization Week (AIW) whose theme is inclusive and sustainable industrialization in the era of the AfCFTA, Ms. Songwe said the continent should be diversifying into manufacturing, processing and the development of small and medium enterprises to deliver the jobs required for the youth.
"Africa has no choice but to think about how we grow forward together, how we grow forward better and ensure that we create jobs for our youth," she said.
At least 13 million jobs would need to be provided in the next year alone and 170 million by 2030 if the continent were to meet the development goals, with manufacturing remaining the backbone, particularly for countries with high labour ratio," she said.
The service sector too can deliver growth and prosperity, Ms. Songwe said, particularly given that it is becoming a major input to manufacturing.
She also called for a reviewof the educational and vocational training systems "to ensure that the kind of human capacity that we are putting in is the kind of human capacity that we need and require to stand up as strong industrialization sector."
Today with COVID-19, many of our youth are out of school, many of our youth are not well trained; many of our youth that are trained are not trained in the businesses and the areas in which they are needed," said Ms. Songwe.
Focus should equally be put on the SMEsmost of which are run by women to have a globally competitive regulatory framework that allows them to operate in an efficient, effective, and economically competitive way, she said.
In a joint statement to commemorate the Week, the ECA, with partners the African Union (AU) and the United Nations Industrial Development Organization (UNIDO), said with trading under the AfCFTA launching in a few weeks, a market of about US$3 trillion and a consumer base of 1.3 billion, will emerge on the continent with tremendous opportunity for African industries.