A high-level debate on the role of transformative leadership in implementing industrialisation and economic diversification strategies in Central Africa ended at the Kintele International Conference Centre near the Congolese capital, Brazzaville, Monday, with appeals for political predictability, adequate infrastructure, especially in energy provision, and a better segmented private sector.
High-level speakers also laid emphasis on solid continental private sector partnerships, cross-border special economic zones and well thought-out professional training, during the first day of the 37th Session of the Intergovernmental Committee of Senior Officials and Experts for Central Africa (ICE), convened by the Central Africa Office of the UN Economic Commission for Africa (ECA) and the Congolese Government.
“Central African and other countries of the continent already have abundant natural and human resources but the real leadership challenge is having the right regulatory frameworks for them to trade in goods and services with ease,” Said Margaret Oghumu, Associate Vice President for Power and Renewables at Africa Finance Corporation (AFC).
Julien Paluku, Minister of Industry of the Democratic Republic of the Congo lamented that Africa has eight of the 15 countries on earth with the most significant essential minerals for modern lifestyles, yet the continent operated from the lowest levels of the mineral beneficiation value chains.
One of the main reasons for this, he argued, is because “our educational curricula are not designed to produce intellectuals who would transform our local resources.”
Immediate recourse to appropriate professional and vocational training would be a leadership move to enhance new generation industrialisation and economic diversification strategies in the subregion, he said.
Anne Nga Ngo, Head of the Cameroon delegation to the ICE meeting, speaking on behalf of her country’s Minister of Industry, Gabriel Dodo Ndoke (whose virtual participation in the debate was interrupted by connectivity glitches) said infrastructure deficits, especially in terms of energy supply, and low technology intensity, are hobbling the implementation of industrial policies and strategies in the subregion.
“We have a weak financial ecosystem that can support mostly short-term credits, and this is not appropriate for consequential investments for structural transformation,” she maintained.
“We cannot industrialise without adequate access to energy,” Jean Luc Mastaki, Officer in Charge of ECA’s Subregional Officer for Central Africa, agreed.
But leadership towards subregional energy integration may help palliate the problem, he went on.
He said another constraint to implementing industrial strategies is the subregion’s demand and supply dynamic.
“We cannot keep producing what we do no consume, while consuming what we do not produce” Mastaki lamented, while advancing the point that leaders should incentivise the private sector to engage in the production of items in demand in the subregion.
He said that the subregion could better mobilise its human resources to drive its structural transformation, adding that “this human capital needs propitious environments such as Special Economic Zones to flourish.”
“Large-scale cross border SEZs could be more effective at bringing about the change in industrial productivity than the traditional national ones the subregion has known this far,” Mastaki followed up.
Ms. Carole Mbessa, Deputy General Manager Business Facilities Corporation SA (BFC), and member of the
Cameroon Business Forum also made a case for strategic integration.
“The association of captains of industry in the subregion and leaders of other business platforms must promote effective partnerships with other continental, south-south bodies to pull their resources together to support the visions that are being set in motion,” she said.
The debate rounded-off with visionary projections into a Central Africa with better leadership fundamentals to implement trade-induced industrialisation and economic diversification policies and masterplans.
“We want to be at the Centre of the conversations for leadership and transformational change across Africa, which lead to building SEZs, beneficiating products and maximising our countries’ implementation of the AfCFTA, each according to its competitive advantages,” said AFC’s Oghumu.
“This is home. Nowhere else. We will therefore build Africa, whatever it takes to do so.”
“I would like to see a Central Africa where countries trade more with themselves, finally measuring up and even surpassing other subregions,” voiced ECA’s Mastaki.
“I envision a subregion where transformational leadership would result in the free movement of goods and people to steer industrial productivity and economic diverisification,” he further enthused.
Distributed by APO Group on behalf of United Nations Economic Commission for Africa (ECA).