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23. November 2015

REMARKS DELIVERED BY THE CHAIR OF THE AFRICAN GROUP, AMBASSADOR TEBOGO SEOKOLO,  PERMANENT REPRESENTATIVE OF SOUTH AFRICA TO UNIDO, ON THE OCCASION OF AFRICA INDUSTRIALIZATION DAY 2015, 23 NOVEMBER 2015, VIENNA

THEME: “Developing SMEs for Poverty Eradication and Job Creation for Women and Youth”.

Mr Li Yong, Director-General of UNIDO

Mr Fedotov, Director-General of UNOV

Excellencies,

Ladies and Gentlemen,

Let me take this opportunity on behalf of the African Group to extend our gratitude to UNIDO for hosting this annual event: Africa Industrialization Day.

This year’s celebration is particularly important because it coincides with the following significant milestones: Firstly, the 70th anniversary of the United Nations; Secondly, the  25th anniversary since the launch of Africa Industrialization Day by the UN; Thirdly,  the adoption by the international community of the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) with a specific goal on building resilient infrastructure, inclusive and sustainable industrial development and fostering innovation and Fourthly; the adoption by  the African heads of States and Governments of a continental vision and development plan - Agenda 2063: The Africa We Want.

It is thus befitting that as we celebrate this defining historical moment, especially 25 years since the launch of Africa Industrialization Day by the UN, we should reflect on whether we are still on track in fulfilling the historic mission that we set to achieve.

Indeed Programme Director,  many on the continent are determined to make this century an African century. They are inspired by a positive economic progress that has been recorded by many countries on the continent in recent decades. As you may be aware many African countries are growing faster than they were 40 years ago.  Six of the world’s ten fastest growing economies at the beginning of this decade came from Africa and several African countries almost reached a GDP growth of 7 %.

This year Africa’s GDP is expected to grow by 4.5 % and in 2016 by 5 %. Rising incomes are supporting the emergence of an African middle class incentivizing young Africans to return home to pursue a career after an education abroad and to become part of this evolving African success story.

However, despite this progress there is no room for complacency. As indicated,  the development plan of the continent, Agenda 2063 – The Africa We Want seeks to:

  • address the structural transformation of Africa’s output and trade and integrate the continent’s economies so that they partake more in the global economy and leverage regional opportunities;
  • Strengthen Africa’s infrastructure and human resources; and
  • Modernize Africa’s science and technology

The African Development Bank seeks to position Africa as the next global emerging market, and the Economic Commission for Africa calls for growth through industrialization, jobs and economic transformation. In this regard, the Commission agitates for a reduction in Africa’s dependence on primary commodity exports and rather focus on enhancing manufacturing and productive capacities.

To achieve these objectives, Africa needs to place women and youth at the centre of all its development programmes and initiatives. Through Small and Medium Enterprises (SMEs) there is a great opportunity to leapfrog and locate women and our young people at the fore-front of development. For many countries on the African continent, SMEs represent over 90% of businesses, contribute over 50% of GDP, and account for about 63% of employment in low-income countries.

Similarly, in Africa, the youth constitutes around 37% of the total labour force, and comprises 60% of the total unemployment. Women, who represent the largest proportion of the continent’s population, are less engaged in the labour force due to several constraints and experience higher risk of vulnerable employment. Limited SME development opportunities for youth and women together with mounting gender inequalities in the region continue to hamper the potential of youth and women’s capacity for transformative socio-economic development, innovation and value addition.

It is against this background that the African continent through its Agenda 2063: the Africa We Want has set itself, amongst others, the following goals:

  • By 2063 to make Africa a continent of free citizens and expanded horizons, where the full potential of Women and Youth are realised;

  • An Africa where development is people-driven, unleashing the potential of its women and youth;

Therefore the focus of this year’s Africa’s Industrialization Day on the development of SMEs for Poverty Eradication and Job Creation for women and youth is relevant. Going forward we stand ready to partner with UNIDO as it streamlines in all its programmes women and youth projects.

I thank you.

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