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Zoom Virtual Platform, 16th – 17th December 2020. The Department of Trade and Industry of the African Union Commissions (AUC) organized Virtually the 9th Industry Strategic Stakeholders Retreat to formulate, implement and harmonize industrial development policies on the continent. The objective of the strategic stakeholder retreat was to provide a platform for different stakeholders including the Private Sector; Regional Economic Communities (RECs), Member States (MS), Civil Society, Academia, Industry Policy and Research Think Tanks, Financing and Development Partners to exchange views and experiences on the readiness of Africa’s Industrialization, and its Productive Capacity for the start of trade on 1st January 2021 under the African Continental Free Trade Area (AfCFTA) aimed at boosting Intra-African trade.
The activity is an annual event, with the last one having been held in February, 2019 in Addis-Ababa, Ethiopia. Over the years, the Division has been organizing stakeholder retreats that have brought together industrial policy makers from AUC, Regional Economic Communities (RECs), Member States, International Development Organizations including UN agencies, private sector including financial institutions, industrializations, trade and industry experts and Academia.
The objective of the 9th Industry Stakeholders Strategic Retreat is to provide a platform for RECs, UN agencies, member states and governments, private sector, and industrial policymakers to engage in a frank discussion so as to take stock of what already exists before the start of the AfCFTA trade on 1st January 2020. Specific objectives of the retreat among other issues are: Reviewing the activities implemented by the Industry Division in 2020 including milestones made, and challenges; Review what the RECs and other partners have done in 2020 in the area of industrialization; Explore areas of mutual interest with the stakeholders and identify areas of cooperation; Identify bottlenecks for industrialization on the continent and how these can be addressed going forward, and Sustain the momentum this far as a build-up to effectively hosts the Summit on Africa Industrialization and Economic Diversification in 2021.
In his opening remark, Mr. Hussein Hassan, Ag. Director, Department of Trade and Industry of the AUC, welcomed all panelist, speakers and participants to the Strategic Retreat and the industry division for organizing this very important Strategic Stakeholders Retreat. He informed the meeting about the outcome of the commemoration of this year’s Africa Industrialization Week (AIW2020) which he said had a very high-level engagement and key among the attendees were the President of the Republic of Madagascar and the President of the Republic of Niger as well as several heads of the United Nations agencies. The Ag. Director urged all industry stakeholders including the private sector, UN agencies, RECs, Member States, financing and development partners to take the bold step in utilizing the continental industrialization agenda through partnership “We need to take steps to utilize such opportunities to drive a continental industrialization agenda utilizing mutually reinforcing and beneficial partnerships” he added.
In the same opening session, Mr. Victor Djemba, Chief. UNIDO Regional Division – Africa, thanked the entire organizing team for holding this stakeholder strategic retreat, he highlighted the importance of transformative industrialization for the sustainable development of Africa especially when the continent is at the brink of starting free trade come 1st January 2021. “Industry is now at the center of the global development agenda and has been given a very important place at a global stage. It must be appreciated by all of us… the impact of the COVID-19 has also provided us with an opportunity that needs to be harnessed”. Mr Djemba called on African Union Member States, and development partners to take appropriate mesures for industrialization agenda, considering the slow pace of industrialization on the African continent.
The partners noted the linkage between industry and trade, as magnified by the current urgency to reposition the continent’s industrial production system in the context of the regional value chain related business opportunities unleashed by the AfCFTA. For the continent to forge ahead in its industrialization drive, there is need for different stakeholders to work together and have one voice. There is need, therefore, to build synergies in both policy formulation and programme implementation. It is also important for stakeholders to learn from each other as well as embrace regional and international best practices to enrich the industrialization agenda. Stakeholder engagement and continuous discourse and dialogue on industrial policy will remain a vital component of programming, both at continental, regional and national level. They pledged their readiness, to work together and with the Industry Division during 2021 and beyond in delivering on the Industrialization and structural transformation mandate.
At the closing session, Mrs. Ron Osman Omar, Officer in charge for the Industry Division thanked the speakers, and panelists for bringing their diverse expertise to the stakeholder’s strategic retreat. She encouraged all stakeholders to make their recommendations towards the preparation of next year’s Summit on Industrialization and Economic Diversification planned to hold in Niamey, Niger and informed the meeting about the planned 10th Stakeholders Strategic Retreat scheduled for February 2021 that will focus on the preparation of a success and impactful Summit on Industrialization and Economic Diversification 2021.