Helen Clark: Speech on Africa’s Transformation through Industrial Development and Implementing the Agenda 2063

Aug 26, 2016

Creating opportunities for women must be at the heart of the transformation agenda. Photo credit: UNDP

I am pleased to join this side event on the role of industrialization and economic transformation for Africa’s development.

I commend JICA and Columbia University for the publication before us, which is an important contribution to the TICAD VI deliberations.

I would also like to take this opportunity to thank Japan for the critical role it plays in raising global awareness of Africa’s development opportunities and challenges, and for mobilizing international support around these. Japan and UNDP enjoy a strong global partnership, and we work actively together in support of Africa’s transformation agenda.

The importance of industrialization and economic transformation

The importance of industrialization and economic transformation is reflected in both the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development and Africa’s Agenda 2063 - The Africa We Want.

Industrialization and economic transformation are critical for translating the continent’s GDP growth performance into longer-term, inclusive, job-rich, and sustainable development. This is particularly important in light of the recent economic slow-down, triggered by low commodity prices and a fall in demand from Europe and China.

Africa’s growth is expected to strengthen again next year, and is likely to be based mainly on commodity exports, extractive industries, and services.  Job-rich growth in manufacturing is not yet a major part of Africa’s story.  Its economies continue to be particularly vulnerable to fluctuations in commodity prices and other external shocks.

When economies move from high reliance on subsistence agriculture and natural resource extraction to activities which foster local value-addition and related services, dynamic economic forces are unleashed. The quality of growth has a huge bearing on whether it will be inclusive, job-rich, and sustainable.  Growth needs to occur in sectors where the poor earn their living, such as in agriculture, fishing, and micro-enterprise.

Priority areas for consideration

As African countries focus on promoting industrialization and economic transformation, UNDP suggests five priority areas for consideration:

First, investing in people.

Investing in education and skills training, health, housing, and social protection is essential.  A skilled and healthy workforce will be a more productive one. 

Creating opportunities for women must be at the heart of the transformation agenda. Women's full and equal participation in Africa’s economic development benefits not only women themselves, but also their families, communities, and countries.

This is highlighted in UNDP’s Africa Human Development Report, which will be launched here at TICAD on Sunday. The preparation of the report benefited from Japan’s funding support, for which we are very grateful.

Second, unleashing the potential of Africa’s youth.

Across Africa we see young people, empowered by information and communications technologies and by their own energy and creativity, setting up businesses and connecting with markets. They have the potential to link to global value chains, and to help their countries leap frog into the higher value-added service and industry sectors.

By 2030, close to sixty per cent of Africa’s 20-24 year olds – 137 million people - will have had secondary education, and twelve million people will have had tertiary education.  This growing pool of educated workers can help drive Africa’s economic transformation.  But inclusive growth must also reach out to marginalized urban and rural youth who long for opportunity.

Third, building the capacity of states to drive development.

This requires strong institutions and quality services. The rule of law is important in its own right, and in creating the enabling environment for growth and development.

Fourth, taking advantage of Africa’s strong natural resource base while maintaining ecosystem integrity.

Advancing industrialization by building on the continent’s strong resource base needs to occur within robust environmental policy frameworks. Action is needed to mitigate and adapt to climate change.  Much greater resilience is needed to severe weather events – El Nino this year has strained coping capacities in many countries.

Finally, supporting regional integration.

Regional integration will increase intra-African trade, and should drive job creation and competitiveness. Both policy reforms and infrastructure investments are needed to maximize the potential of regional integration.

UNDP’s commitment to Africa’s industrialization and economic transformation

UNDP is committed to supporting Africa on its journey to industrialization and economic transformation.

Some examples of our work:

  • We have partnered with the private sector in a number of countries to promote their engagement in inclusive and sustainable development.

    For example, in Rwanda, the Ministry of Youth, UNDP, and a number of ICT companies launched the YouthConnekt initiative which connects young job-seekers with businesses. The goal is to promote job creation and access to capital for young ICT entrepreneurs to grow their businesses.

    Years ago, we were an early investor in the development of the Ethiopian Commodity Exchange (ECX).  It has facilitated the dissemination of real time market information to farmers, traders, and agricultural processors, helping the agricultural sectors to lift their game and their returns.
  • Through UNDP’s Africa Agribusiness Supplier Development Programme, we have supported the development and expansion of sustainable and inclusive agricultural value chains across the continent. Many thousands of farmers and SMEs have benefited through access to training, expert advice, and other agricultural inputs. The objective is to raise agricultural productivity and incomes, and to build capacities to meet quality standards and access growing domestic and regional markets.
  • UNDP is also helping a number of African countries to get greater benefit from their natural resource endowment, in support of the African Mining Vision adopted by African Heads of State in 2009.

    This work includes our partnership with the European Union and the African, Caribbean, and Pacific Group of States (ACP) on fostering sustainable and inclusive development of the small-scale mineral resources industry.

    For example, in Burkina Faso, Ghana, Liberia, and Tanzania, we have supported artisanal miners through training, technology fairs, networking events, and grants to build their capacity and enhance productivity. The goal is to raise incomes, grow jobs, and improve livelihoods.
  • UNDP also supports entrepreneurship development. Our Youth Entrepreneurship Development Training Facility here in Kenya, for example, has successfully provided training for youth in agribusiness – turning them from job seekers to job creators.


Under the leadership of African governments, and with investments from and partnerships with the private sector, development banks and other actors, inclusive and sustainable industrialization and economic transformation is achievable.  UNDP is committed to working across the continent and in each national context to help make this happen.

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