SANF 19 no 44 – by Kizito Sikuka in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia
The concept of industrialization is not a new phenomenon in Africa.
It can be traced back many decades ago when Regional Economic Communities (RECs) in Africa advanced their objectives from mainly political advancement to include economic integration following the independence of almost all countries in the continent.
However, it is not a secret that in the past few years, calls for Africa to put in place vibrant industrialization policies that allow countries to diversify their economies and utilize local resources through comprehensive value-addition are growing lounder and stronger.
This is in realization that most African countries continue to be among the poorest in the world despite abundant natural resources as the majority of them export these in their raw or unprocessed form.
In fact, the SADC Chair, President John Magufuli of the United Republic of Tanzania said without industrialisation, Africa will never achieve any sustainable development since “history has taught us that no country or region in the world has ever developed without undergoing the process of industrialization.”
With this reality in mind, industrialization has thus became a buzzword for developmental regionalism in Africa, and countries both at the regional and continental level have agreed that industrialization should take centre stage in the regional integration agenda of Africa.
However, is the media – an important stakeholder in society – supporting this “new kind of thinking” in Africa or even providing a platform for the continent to determine and shape its developmental agenda?
This is one of the many questions that media practitioners from Africa, who are attending a media orientation seminar on Africa’s Industrialization that opened 25 September in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia, are trying to answer.
African Union Commission (AUC) Director of Information and Communication, Leslie Richer said every stakeholder including the private sector, civil society, research institutions and the media has an important role to play in advancing industrialization in Africa.
“The role of media in economic development is sometimes overlooked especially when focus is only given to issues considered as more exciting and newsworthy; and given the scope and breadth of economic issues and in particular the subject of industrialisation, the task can be daunting and discourage engagement, she said.
“It is therefore important for the media to play its role as arbiters of information and develop the subject matter expertise to break down economic information in a way that both educates and engages the widest audience if Africa is to achieve a participatory and inclusive development agenda.”
AUC Officer in Charge of Trade and Industry, Ron Omar concurred, saying there is need to capacitate the media on industrialization as well develop an appetite for them to cover such issues.
“While key stakeholders occupy strategic roles at continental, regional and member state levels, without adequate visibility, and publicity through active involvement of the media, traction on implementation of industrialization policies will remain elusive, thus derailing the quest for delivering on Agenda 2063,” Omar said.
Rongai Chizema, the Chief Technical Advisor and Head of AIDA Implementation and Coordination Unit at the AU Commission said it is time Africa took its media seriously to advance integration in the continent.
He said Africa is failing to tell its story mainly because the continent is “underutilizing its media,” adding that failure to work with the media would render regional initiatives such as Agenda 2063 elusive as the media will continue to ignore covering such issues.
Agenda 2063 is a continental strategic framework adopted by the AU in 2013 to optimize the use of the continent’s resources for the benefit of all Africans.
Commonly known as “The Africa We Want”, the strategic framework seeks to accelerate the implementation of past and existing continental initiatives for growth and sustainable development such as the Abuja Treaty and the Programme for Infrastructural Development in Africa (PIDA).
Agenda 2063 identifies seven aspirations, with rolling implementation plans of 25 years, 10 years, and five years, as well as short-term action plans. The seven aspirations are:
- A Prosperous Africa, based on inclusive growth and sustainable development;
- An Integrated Continent, politically united, based on the ideals of Pan Africanism and the vision of Africa’s Renaissance;
- An Africa of Good Governance, democracy, respect for human rights, justice and the rule of law;
- A Peaceful and Secure Africa;
- An Africa with a Strong Cultural Identity, common heritage, values and ethics;
- An Africa where Development is People Driven, unleashing the potential of its women and youth; and,
- Africa as a Strong, United and Influential global player and partner.
Some key and flagship projects or initiatives under Agenda 2063 include the establishment of an African Continental Free Trade Area (AfCFTA), creation of an African Passport, as well as silencing the Guns.
The AfCFTA became operational in May, creating an enlarged market that brings together all the 55 AU member states, covering a market of more than 1.2 billion people and a combined gross domestic product (GDP) of more than US$3.4 trillion.
The media orientation seminar on Africa’s Industrialization is being held from 25-27 September. sardc.net