Shall we be out of poverty by 2030?

05Mar 2017
Anne Kiruku
Guardian On Sunday
Ea Wowen in Perspective
Shall we be out of poverty by 2030?

A manufacturing summit planned for May in Rwanda should aim to tell the region’s citizens why 50 years-plus after independence, the region – and indeed the African continent as whole – is yet to make meaningful headways in the industrialisation sector.

Despite huge budgetary allocations, the colonial status quo of producing raw materials for export to factories in western countries remains.

This has consequently led to stagnation of industrialisation processes in Africa, as a result making the continent home to the world’s 10 least developed countries. And the EAC wins the trophy for being home to the second poorest region in the world.

Goal nine of the United Nations Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) implores countries to build resilient infrastructure, promote sustainable industrialisation and foster innovation.

The region must learn from the Indian subcontinent that industrialisation cannot be achieved without regional integration. There must be an inclusive partnership of the regional partner states – and preferably of all African nations – irrespective of income or financial levels.

There is need for enhanced regional and cross-border cooperation if industrialisation is to be realised any time soon.

It is unfortunate that the quest for industrialisation in the region has been unsuccessful since independence largely due to failure to safeguard the interests of local producers in an era of rising globalisation.

If the region is to achieve these goals, challenges of power infrastructure and proper financing of the sector will have to be faced head-on.

Power outages, lack of electricity connections in rural areas, the high cost of electricity as well as power shortages are negatively impacting on the potential growth of the region.

Industrialisation cannot occur without a reliable energy infrastructure. A comprehensive overhaul of the sector is therefore called for. A mix of both conventional and renewable energy will serve the region better.

Investing in renewable sources of energy and expanding electricity connectivity to rural areas is key to winning the battle.

A global partnership that recognises Africa’s export and domestic market potentials, while also encouraging direct investment and inviting foreign investors, is crucial for the continent’s industrialisation.

Now that the world has adopted the 2030 agenda, all stakeholders must join forces to form a global partnership that promotes the agenda – particularly for the most vulnerable countries in Africa.

But even as the region looks up to global partners for support of its industrialisation strategic plans, dealing with the dragons hampering realisation of the 2030 deadline for implementation of the SDGs is a must.

Stiff competition faced by many nascent local industries from foreign manufacturers that produce similar goods cheaply must be faced with determination.

The mitumba debacle, which has brought the textile industry to its knees in the region, must also be faced with sobriety. Similarly, the paper and food processing industries are facing stiff competition from foreign companies and are on the verge of collapse.

Several paper industries have closed shop in the recent past and if nothing is done urgently, there will soon be no paper industry to talk of.

No industrialisation can take place in a country where the education sector – where skills, morals and values are instilled – is in disarray. It is unfortunate that the education offered in our local systems is designed for passing examinations.

Acquiring practical skills, moulding talent, nurturing innovativeness and creativity is given less weight in the local systems of education. An overhaul of the whole sector is key to realisation of the 2030 goals.

Industrial unrest has become the order of the day; from teachers’ strikes to doctors’ and nurses’, the list is endless. These strikes disrupt activities in the respective industries and lead to enormous losses.

Promoting dispute resolution mechanisms between workers and employers is key to sustaining a smooth flow of operations.

The private sector is the driver of industrialisation in the region; without its support, there would be no industrialisation. Governments have a responsibility to create a conducive business environment, investing in human capital, enhancing the technology base as well as providing the information and infrastructure needed by the private sector to become more efficient, innovative and competitive.

According to the EAC industrialisation policy, there is need to develop a strategy to promote equitable industrial development in the region. This cannot be achieved without putting weight in key regional value chains: Agro-processing, energy and bio fuels, and fertilizers and agro-chemicals, among others.

The region must strive towards creating a globally-competitive, environment-friendly and sustainable industrial sector capable of improving the living standards of the people of East Africa.