UN SECRETARY General, Ban Ki Moon has emphasised the need for African countries to improve the value of their exports to be able to withstand global economic shocks.
“It is essential for Africa to be able to process its raw materials into higher-value products, both for domestic consumption and for exports.”
Mr Moon made this known in a message read on his behalf by Daouda Toure, UN Resident Coordinator in Ghana to mark the 19th Anniversary Celebration of the Africa Industrialization Day (AID) recently in Accra.
While he referred to Malaysia and Thailand, for example, as economies that have progressed rapidly by processing primary and mineral products into high-value-added products, he bemoaned Africa's situation especially where fifty percent of the value of its exports emanated from the processing of primary products.
Such a scenario, the Secretary General warned, made Africa vulnerable to global economic mishaps since more than half of its people are in the agricultural sector.
“This makes it essential to develop the agri-business and agro-processing industries.”
Africa's contribution to global manufacturing is said to be just one percent. The continent, which has been heavily dependent on commodity trading, has unfortunately been unable to transform its industrial landscape.
However, with many of its people living on less than US$1 a day, the achievement of the Millennium Development Goal (MDG) number 1 (halving poverty by 2015) appears unrealisable.
While economic analysts have mentioned supply side challenges and constraints as a persistent problem for African industrial development, the continent's leaders also have been called upon to invest in skill upgrade, productivity stimulation and investment promotion to buttress moves to salvage their economies. Other necessary factors have been the transfer of technology, infrastructural improvement and the improvement of the road transportation network among others.
Agriculture accounts for 40 percent of Ghana's gross domestic product (GDP) and contributes three-quarters of export earnings while employing some 55 percent of the labour force.
By Samuel Boadi