By Bedson Nyoni and Mayeso Msokera
Lilongwe, Malawi, December 8, 2022 (ECA) – Today the United Nations Economic Commission for Africa Sub regional Office for Southern Africa (ECA SRO-SA) in collaboration with the Ministry of Trade and Industry of the Republic of Malawi kicked off a three-day Regional Policy Dialogue on Industrialization in Lilongwe, Malawi. The overall objective of the policy dialogue and the private sector sensitization meeting is to provide a platform for stakeholders to discuss the recommendations and policy directions from four analytical studies commissioned by SRO-SA in support of industrial policy alignment, harmonization and domestication, and for assessing the impacts of the COVID-19 pandemic in Southern Africa.
Honourable Mark Katsonga Phiri, Minister for Trade and Industry, Malawi, in his opening remarks highlighted that industrialization is central to the agenda of structural transformation of economies in the region. “Industrialization will transform our countries from being mainly consuming and importing to being predominantly producing and exporting, thereby reducing trade deficits” he added.
The Minister observed that the dialogue comes at a very critical time which requires member States and Regional Economic Communities (RECs) to rethink strategies in order to industrialize, create sustainable jobs and reduce poverty and address inequality.
“As a region we have started thinking “industrialisation” but we need to do more to practically propel the agenda forward. Importantly, we need to think and act as a region not as individual Member States as we pursue cross border value chains. We are endowed with a diversity of natural resources, but we still lag behind in terms economic development when compared with other nations with similar resource endowments or even less” he emphasized.
Speaking on behalf of Ms. Eunice Kamwendo, Director of the ECA Sub-Regional Office for Southern Africa, Ms. Olayinka Bandele, Chief of Inclusive Industrialization in ECA Sub-Regional Office Southern Africa, emphasized the critical importance of industrialization, value addition and economic diversification to regional fortunes.
Ms. Bandele said that “upgrading of productive capacities, promoting investment in modern industries, developing and strengthening value chains, as well as deepening opportunities for regional integration and trade, are all critical pathways to successful industrialisation”.
Speaking at the same event, Permanent Secretary, Ministry of Industry and Commerce Mozambique, and the Chairperson of the Bureau of the 28thIntergovernmental Committee of Senior Officials and Experts of Southern Africa, Mr. Jorge Jairoce noted interconnectedness between industrialization and trade highlighting that the African Continental Free Trade Area (AfCFTA) will help speed up industrialization and economic development in Africa.
Mr. Jairoce added that “The AfCFTA will create a huge chance for the continent to boost regional trade, strengthen regional value chains, accelerate the development of infrastructure, empower women and youth, and promote local talents and skills development”.
The Permanent Secretary underscored that “creating an environment to facilitate the growth of regional value chains across member States, value addition and beneficiation, for the production and export of competitive products through the AfCFTA should be the urgent pre-occupation of regional stakeholders”.
He lauded the Secretariat, through the ECA Sub-Regional Office for Southern Africa Director, Ms. Eunice Kamwendo, for supporting regional development and urged member States to continue reaching out to the Secretariat for technical support as they recover from the debilitating effects of the COVID-19 pandemic and develop strategies to avert the adverse effects of the debilitating impacts of climate change.
On his part, President, SME Association of Malawi, Mr. William Mwale said that “the dialogue comes at the right time, when the Private Sector needs Government’s hand holding on the next steps after industrial policy development in the Southern African Development Community (SADC) and the Common Market for Eastern and Southern Africa (COMESA)”.
Mr Mwale further requested that governments and development partners should facilitate technical capacitation of the private sector in Malawi to access finance and improve infrastructure to operationalise Special Economic Zones and Export Processing Zones.
Representatives of regional member States, Private Sector, Civil Society, micro, small and medium enterprises representatives, academia and women business organizations, COMESA, SADC and ECA are participating in the dialogue.