Since 2000 the continent of Africa has recorded impressive rates of economic growth. This remarkable performance has been largely driven by the prolonged commodity boom and development assistance. While the continent shows great diversity in the socio-economic trajectories of its countries, growth rates have generally masked an underlying lack of structural transformation, which is needed to achieve socially inclusive and environmentally sustainable development.
World leaders are recognizing the crucial role of industrialization in eliminating absolute poverty and promoting sustainable development. This was especially evident at the recent G20 Summit in Hangzhou, China, which I attended as a member of the delegation of the United Nations Secretary-General, Ban Ki-moon. The gathering demonstrated the growing consensus on the need for renewed efforts to facilitate inclusive and sustainable industrialization as one of the main drivers of economic growth and structural transformation in Africa, and especially the least developed countries (LDCs).
As representatives of the United Nations Industrial Development Organization (UNIDO), we are sometimes asked whether industrial development is still relevant to a world which many observers have claimed over the past decades to have entered the “post-industrial age”. Our answer is always an emphatic “yes”, shaped both by the evidence of history and current events.