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4th Industrial Revolution: Whither Africa?

Today, Monday November 20th is Africa industrialization Day (AID). It is a significant day declared by United Nations Industrial Development Organisation (UNIDO) as an annual platform for Governments, businesses and organized labour linked to industrial development to examine ways and means to stimulate Africa industrialization process. The officials of UNIDO in Nigeria, Federal Ministry of Trade and Investment, manufacturers, relevant stakeholders, members of African affiliates of Industriall global union (with 59 million members in 149 countries) on Friday 17th of November, as part of the labour’s activities to mark the day, organized 6th Policy Dialogue which extensively focused on the “Fourth Industrial Revolution (Industry 4.0): Implications for Africa” at Yar’Adua Centre. 

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Today, the stakeholders will also march for beneficiation and Industrialization of African economies from Eagle Square to same Yar’Adua Centre, where the 2017 commemorative event holds. The objective of the Policy Dialogue was to critically examine the opportunities for Africa to diversify its economy, promote mass decent employment with respect to workers’ rights within the context of digital/smart manufacturing (Industry 4.0).  

As the Vice President of the global union, yours comradely moderated the policy dialogue which featured definition and understanding of Industry 4.0.  Brother  Brian Kohler, Director, Health, Safety and Sustainability, IndustriALL Global Union, Geneva, Switzerland  ably led this discussion as he did at IndustriALL Global Union’s World Conference on “Industry 4.0: Implications for Trade Unions and Sustainable Industrial Policy” in Geneva, Switzerland between 26 -27 October 2017. 

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Industrialization and industrial policies as well as national development are too important to be left to governments and businesses alone. Indeed promoting sustainable industrial policy is one of the critical success goals of our global union. In Africa, promoting sustainable industrial policy even assumes a special importance.  

Industry is a key driver of sustainable jobs and development for national economies and the foundation of good living standards. It does not matter whether it is first industrial revolution, (Industry 1.0), Second Industrial Revolution (2.0) Third Industrial Revolution (Industry 3.0) or the Fourth Industrial Revolution (Industry 4.0), we as Africans must make what we wear (gold, rings and necklaces, clothes and textile), what we ride, (automobiles), what fuel our cars (petroleum products) what we build with (iron and steel), soaps we bath with, shoes we wear (chemicals and allied leather products) and generate energy we consume. 

We must stop exporting raw cottons, crude oil, mineral resources, gold and diamond only to be importing finished goods from China, Europe and America. It does not matter whether it is small or medium scale enterprises, Africa must consume products it produces NOT   imported or smuggled as it is the case in Nigeria.  UNIDO over the years had shown that manufacturing industry in Sub-Saharan Africa (SSA) lags behind other developing regions in almost all measures of economic development, namely income per head, industrialization and agricultural productivity. The distribution of manufacturing activity in SSA, measured by the dollar value of manufacturing value added (MVA), is highly skewed. 

There are three leading economies in Africa, Nigeria which worth some $406 billion, Egypt $332.3 billion and South Africa $294.1billion. However in terms of manufacturing value added South Africa at 25 per cent, Egypt at 20 per cent are ahead of Nigeria with scandalously less than 5 per cent. Ghana is even more industrialized than Nigeria at 6 per cent manufacturing value added (MVA). In 2015, Africa has as many as 1.2 billion population.  Millions of youths join the labour market annually. Only industry can provide sustainable jobs and living wages and necessary revenues for government to provide the needed infrastructure for development. 

There was once a developmentalist Nigeria leading in textile production, oil refinery, tyre (remember Dunlop and Michelin) and shoes production (remember Bata!). For Africa to meet the Sustainable Development Goal 2030, especially SDG 9 dealing with industry and innovation our continent must innovate and industrialize. Africa should stop being romantic and clapping for China through uncritical importation of goods and services. 

Rather Africa must copy China’s industrialization drive which has within 20 years moved over 250 million people out of poverty through manufacturing and industrialization. Africa must make what it consumes, otherwise it will be consumed by the rest of the world. Most African countries have not reaped the benefits of the first industrial revolution yet we must live in a globalized world of digital and smart manufacturing and value addition. 

Many African countries have robust documents and policies on industrialization and diversification, yet few existing industries are closing with mass job losses. It’s time South Africa, Nigeria, Senegal, Ghana! Zimbabwe, Sudan walked/worked the policies and add value to the continent abundant raw materials. 

Today we acknowledge and commend the Federal Government of Nigeria for launching the Economic Recovery and Growth Plan (ERGP). Together with the existing National Industrial Revolution Plan, it can promote revival of industries and creation of mass decent jobs. The chieftain of the ruling APC party Asiwaju Bola Ahmed Tinubu hit the right nail last week when he said: “No populous nation has ever attained prosperity without first establishing a robust industrial capacity.” 

Nigeria and Africa must industrialize now or perpetually remain in poverty and living on aid and credits. We hail the states governors who  have commendably taken to development and industrialization such  as Godwin Obadeki with Edo industrial parks, Aminu Tambuwal of Sokoto and Ayande of Cross River States with innovative garment factories.  Governance must be judged based on how leaders increase manufacturing value added and how many sustainable decent jobs they create. Happy Africa Industrialization Day (AID)!

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