"Conflicts, diseases, famine, backwardness, wars and underdevelopment have been flaunted in our faces."
By Amelia Kyambadde
Africa is bedevilled with negative perceptions perpetrated by detractors; exploiters, colonialists and even Africans ourselves.
Red flags of conflicts, diseases, famine, backwardness, wars and underdevelopment have been flaunted in our faces.
However, Africa’s trajectory of an Industrial Revolution started way back in the 15th Century with; barter trade; blacksmith, rudimentary mining, and agriculture. Africa is a land of opportunity, well endowed with natural resources necessary for a resource-based industrialization.
The African continent is sitting on more than US$82 trillion of discovered natural resources, with the potential to contribute US$30 billion a year in government revenues over the next 20 years.
The African landmass is home to five of the main 30 Oil-producing nations in the world. Nigeria, Algeria, Egypt and Uganda are some of them. Africa is rich with a number of mineral resources including Gold, Diamond, Copper, Platinum Uranium, Iron and steel and many others. Mineral beneficiation is key though capital intensive.
African revolutionaries like Dr. Kwame Nkrumah, Julius Nyerere, Jomo Kenyatta, Patrice Lumumba and others embarked on the industrialization process through construction of hydro-power dams including;
1. Aswan high dam in Egypt constructed in 1961 with a capacity of 2,100 MW per annum
2. Akasombo dam in Ghana, constructed in 1961 with a capacity of 912 MW per annum
3. Bujagali dam in Uganda constructed in 2007 with a capacity of 255 MW per annum
4. Cahora Bassa in Mozambique constructed in 1974 with a capacity of 2,075 MW per annum
Ironically, consumption of energy by Africa is only 2 out of 10 Africans. Africa has the lowest capacity consumption of electricity of only 450KW per hour.
Africa is the World's second largest and second most-populous continent with 11.7 million square miles. Africa covers 60% of the World arable land but 79% of it is uncultivated.
Africa is also endowed with 9% of the World fresh water resource. Africa has a comparative advantage in the production of coffee, tea, spices, cotton, maize, rice, fish and sugar.
Access to ICT
Africa has constructed an optic fibre cable connecting the whole continent. 21.8% of African youth out of 40.3% access the internet in Africa.
Africa has developed a strong legal framework in democracy, investments, human rights, and many others.
Most countries on the Continent have stabilized and through the African Union, there are continued efforts for peace building in some of the unstable countries.
As observed above, all these efforts give Africa a strong foundation and platform to further integrate with one another and to industrialize. Therefore, the Africa Continental Free Trade Area (AfCFTA) is the panacea to the existing gaps in Africa’s road to industrialization.
African regional integration for industrialization
The above socio-economic indicators illustrate Africa’s potential to industrialize and liberate its peoples from poverty through job creation and this can be achieved through its Integration. That is why 44 Member States out of 55 decided to sign an agreement establishing the Africa Continental Free Trade Area (AfCFTA) in March 2018 in Kigali. The agreement establishes a single market of 1.2 billion people, with a combined Gross Domestic Product $3.4 trillion.
The AfCFTA is one of the vehicles to catalyse the development of African countries by breaking down trade barriers between African countries.
Progress in signing and ratification of AfCFTA
Presently, 49 countries have signed the agreement and 11 have ratified: Uganda, South Africa, Kenya, Ghana, Sierra Leone, Niger, Chad, Rwanda, Guinea, eSwatini (Former Swaziland) and Cote d’Ivoire.The agreement will come into force after 22 countries ratify.
Uganda chairs AfCFTA negotiations
Uganda was unanimously elected as the current chair of the African Continental Free Trade Area (AfCFTA) Forum for African Ministers of Trade Uganda during the 6th meeting of the African Union Ministers of Trade that took place in Dakar, Senegal from 3rd to 4th June 2018 for a period of one year. The election is in recognition of Uganda’s active participation in the Continental Free Trade Area negotiations.
The AfCFTA will enable the increase in the stock of infrastructure in terms of land, air and maritime transport, energy and ICT, which will improve interconnectivity and reduce the cost of doing business.
Does Uganda stand to benefit from the AfCFTA?
Uganda will benefit in the following ways;
1. It provides expanded markets for our growing economic operations;
attracts cross-border investment;
2. creates employment opportunities for our young populations domestically through expansion in production of goods and services that will be demanded by the expanded markets;
3. improves the interstate infrastructure interconnectivity to enable us harness our productive capacities;
4. Enhances peace and security in the continent through engaging people in gainful economic activities.
Uganda targets value added products in the following sectors that have big potential; livestock products notably dairy and beef, coffee, tea, iron and steel, among others. Services will include education, tourism, business services and infrastructure services.
Government initiatives to promote industrialization
There has been an increase in industrial growth in Uganda. The industrial sector contribution to GDP at 19.8% and grew by 6.2%, from 3.4% in 2016/17 and in particular, Manufacturing alone contributed 8.2% to GDP with a growth rate of 4.4% in the financial year 2017/18.
The improved performance of the sector is on account of good performance in chemical & pharmaceutical products, drinks, sugar, among others. The Government has also undertaken massive infrastructure projects in energy, roads, ICT to provide a stable backbone for industrial development.
In a nutshell, Africa is indeed ready for industrialization and our harmonized vision and agenda are focussed on job creation through infrastructure development; promotion of intra-trade; skills development for youth; agricultural development; mineral beneficiation, and strengthening partnerships with global and regional partners.
Africa with her goals and aspirations will be the global industrial and investment hub. Let us believe in ourselves.
The writer is Minister of Trade, Industry and Co-operatives