On Africa Industrialization Day, Ban warns gender inequity, youth unemployment risk continent’s progress
Marking the Africa Industrialization Day, United Nations Secretary General Ban Ki-moon is calling for job creation in small and medium enterprises (SMEs) for women and youth to eradicate poverty and achieve sustainable industrial development on the continent.
“In recent years, many countries in Africa have experienced significant economic growth and progress in human development. However, inclusive and sustainable industrial development remains elusive,” said Mr. Ban in his message on the Day, marked annually on 20 November.
He pointed out that both youth unemployment and gender inequity jeopardize the continent’s efforts to eradicate poverty.
The private sector in Africa contributes to a projected 80 per cent of the continent’s gross domestic product (GDP) and supports an estimated 90 per cent of all jobs. SMEs have a pivotal role to play in the industrial development of Africa.
Nevertheless, the UN chief noted that the opportunities for youth and women generated by SMEs are limited, thus failing to harness the full entrepreneurial potential of the continent.
“This means less capacity for transformative socio-economic development, innovation and value addition,” he said.
The theme for this year’s Day is ‘SMEs for Poverty Eradication and Job Creation for Women and Youth.’
In his message, the Secretary-General stressed that Africa needs to invest in training and education for women and youth to industrialize, grow the private sector and achieve sustainable development. “SMEs can provide a solid foundation for sustained economic growth, job creation and poverty eradication,” he added.
The important contribution of inclusive and sustainable industrialization in helping Africa to overcome its critical development challenges is clearly recognized in the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development adopted by United Nations Member States in September.
“I reaffirm the commitment of the United Nations to enhance Africa’s SME sector and stimulate economic opportunities for women and youth to promote the continent’s progress towards economically enriched, socially inclusive and prosperous societies,” concluded Mr. Ban.
“SMEs for Poverty Eradication and Job Creation for Women and Youth”
The Africa Industrialization Day (AID) is organized every year by UNIDO, in collaboration with the AUC, UNECA, and the support of the UN family. Due to its expertise and long-standing commitment in providing technical cooperation to African governments on industrial issues, UNIDO has been tasked to play a central role in coordinating all worldwide activities pertaining to this global event. Through the organized activities, UNIDO seeks to further stimulate the global debate on Africa’s major developmental challenges. This year’s theme, “SMEs for Poverty Eradication and Job Creation for Women and Youth”, will be discussed during the symposium to be held in Vienna on Monday 23 November 2015 and in several UNIDO field offices and desks. The debate will aim to initiate discussions and generate political and financial commitment towards Africa’s industrial development in general, with a special focus on SMEs and marginalized groups as development agents.
As codified in UNGA Resolution 44/237 of 22 December 1989, the Africa Industrialization Day (AID) is celebrated each year on 20 November and allows interactions on strategies related to the sustainable industrial development of Africa, including the evaluation of results as well as the identification of achievements and future challenges.
At the global level, the AID allows for the expression of the international community’s commitment to the accelerated economic growth of Africa, through sound structural industrial development. Simultaneously, the AID is an important occasion to interact with major stakeholders on the challenges pertaining to industrialization and poverty eradication in Africa.
Despite the seismic shifts in the global economic sphere over the last decade, Africa has experienced a burgeoning economy and seen significant progresses in its Human Development Indicators. However, these optimistic developments have been hampered by several challenges among which an increasing youth unemployment and a mounting gender disparity. Unemployment and economic disempowerment remain critical obstacles towards Africa’s industrialization and economic growth, especially for the vulnerable groups, namely, youth and women.
In order for the African region to transition into a prosperous continent with high quality growth, sound economic and industrial policies should be geared towards providing economic and employment opportunities for all, with a particular emphasis placed on marginalized communities and groups.
More specifically, it is imperative to note that youth and women constitute the largest and the weakest segment of least developed countries’ (LDCs) populations. As a continent, Africa harbors the majority of the least developed countries with 34 countries out of the 48 listed as LDCs in 2015. The Istanbul Programme of Action (IPoA) 2011-2020 for LDCs has identified youth as a fundamental asset towards graduation. The potential of young generations, if maximized, could have tremendous bearings on society if they are able to fully engage both economically and socially. Consequently, their inclusion in the productive system will assist the region in tackling the overwhelming challenges impeding most required socio-economic transformations.
In addition to the enhancement of youth socio-economic participation, gender equality and the empowerment of women and girls were determined as vital to achieving better sustainable and prosperous growth. Therefore, operational strategies piloted towards enhancing the capacities of these vulnerable communities are imperative for the overall inclusive and sustainable development of Africa.
As such, the AID’s theme of this year is particularly relevant as the African Union Assembly of Heads of State and Government declared 2015 the Year of Women’s Empowerment & Development towards Africa’s agenda 2063. Moreover, 2015 marks a significant milestone in development initiatives. It is situated amidst, the African youth Decade Plan of Action (2009-2018) and the African Women’s Decade (2010-2020), which were both formulated by the Africa Union Assembly in the years 2009 and 2010 respectively. These initiatives are geared towards accelerating youth and women’s empowerment and development. More specifically, the UNIDO symposium will provide an arena for experts to deliberate on concerns associated with SMEs pertaining particularly to women and youth in line with the organization’s mandate as delineated in the Lima Declaration 2013, which set the basis of UNIDO’s mandate of inclusive and sustainable industrial development (ISID).