President Cyril Ramaphosa has challenged African leaders to shift their focus from being producers of raw materials processed elsewhere.
The President further called on the continent to be manufacturers of their own goods and to rebuild their industrial capacity to serve the growing young population.
The President was speaking on Thursday in the Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC) where he kicked off his working visit at the invitation of President Félix Tshisekedi.
The President, who flew to Kinshasa on Wednesday, co-chaired the Heads of State and Government segment of the 12th Session of the DRC–South Africa Bi-National Commission (BNC).
He noted that Africa was a young continent, with about 70% of the sub-Saharan African population under the age of 30.
Describing Africa’s youth as digital natives and tech-savvy, he told delegates that the continent was growing rapidly.
“It is estimated that by 2050, Africa’s population will grow to 2.5 billion people with a new generation that is more urbanised, better educated and wealthier than any that has come before it.”
Africa, according to the First Citizen, is urbanising, providing networks of skills and opportunities that can drive Africa’s development.
He projected that the urban population of Africa will be larger than that of China and India, and four times bigger than that of the United States.
“To realise the opportunity of this demographic dividend, we will need to rapidly expand and diversify our industrial capacity.
“We need to shift away from simply being producers of raw materials that are processed elsewhere in the world. Africa’s appetite for industrialisation has been whetted.”
He believes that the new investment in factories and logistics systems can power higher levels of growth and jobs.
“COVID-19 taught us the importance of Africa developing its industrial base.
“We were left stranded without the resources to fight the pandemic. We could not access sufficient supplies of medical-grade face masks, ventilators, surgical gowns, hand sanitisers, testing kits and later vaccines.”
However, through efforts to repurpose industrial capabilities, he said the continent was able to reverse this, becoming a manufacturer of all these products.
“The crisis taught us valuable lessons for the future. One of those lessons is that Africa’s industrial base while growing, needs to be much deeper and larger.”
This, he said, requires significant investment in science and innovation, a conducive environment for new investment, promoting skills development within the workforce and greater levels of trade with each other.
“South Africa and the DRC can be leaders in this important project of ensuring African raw materials are processed on the African continent.
“We can combine our raw materials and skills, our technology and capital, our young people, and universities into a powerful drive to industrialise.”
He is of the view that there is an opportunity to develop an integrated supply chain for electric vehicle battery manufacturing as well, using our combined resources and capacities.
“This is one of the most important initiatives we can take to ensure that Africa can be a leading manufacturer and I look forward to taking this forward with President Tshisekedi.”
He said he was pleased that several South African companies in the DRC were represented, adding that several Congolese businesses were operating in South Africa.
“There is no doubt that the potential is vast. We must work more closely to address the challenges that have been identified by the private sector and work to overcome them.”
He also called on Congolese businesspeople to invest in South Africa, to find opportunities to expand their businesses by setting up subsidiaries in South Africa.
“I, therefore, invite the Congolese private sector to attend the next South Africa Investment Conference to be held in March next year and join us in this effort to grow our overall investment base with more African investment.”
He told delegates that they are determined to ensure that all Africans benefit from their fair share of global growth and development.
“As a continent, we do have several challenges, but we must take our destiny into our own hands.
“I am certain that working together, deepening our cooperation and exploring new avenues of endeavour, we can achieve a better future for our continent and its people.” – SAnews.gov.za