Africa, the last frontier for development: Carlos Lopes discusses what is needed to promote African Industrialisation, from the resources required to the need for reliable data and the role of African champions..

Position::THE AFROCHAMPIONS INITIATIVE: Accelerating the transformation of Africa - Interview

Carlos Lopes High Representative of the AU for the negotiations with Europe

You've always lauded the vision of industrialisation as a pillar to support a free trade area. But what does industrialisation mean in the context of Africa?

The first thing you need is awareness. In 2012, when I started arranging debates on this subject, some people were still reluctant to accept the idea of industrialisation. They preferred to discuss diversification--providing markets with opportunities to reduce dependence on traditional export products--but the very concept of industrialisation was not very popular, and was viewed as a byword for state intervention. However, since then there's been a lot more awareness of the value of industrialisation--there's scarcely a single document in Africa that doesn't talk about it!

Of course, there's still a long way to go before this awareness can be translated into policy. If we look at countries that have made real progress in industrial policies--Ethiopia, Rwanda, Morocco, Namibia, and even Cote d'Ivoire, which has made remarkable strides of late--we see that these policies are highly complex and challenging, with very few bearing fruit. I believe that three ingredients are needed if industrialisation is to succeed: ambition, sophistication and coherence. Ambition is needed, because we can't be satisfied with limited measures. We need to set our sights higher, and to do this we need a vision and a strategy. Sophistication is important because it's impossible to isolate ourselves from what's happening elsewhere in the world. We need to be familiar with every value chain right down to the smallest details in order to make decisions that are appropriate for the level of the value chain. We can't do everything! We need to choose a specific area of industry and a specific value chain, and work on all of its details. The last element is coherence because everyone, from governments to the private sector, needs to work together to get on board with the policies. We can't be satisfied with sector-specific policies. If industrialisation policy is limited to the areas of influence of ministers for industry, then we won't have industrialisation at all!

Beyond the theory lies the question of practice, and what methods can be used to make the idea reality. Does Africa have the financial resources to get behind this idea to which you are so committed?

The problem is about more than just financial resources. We also have to take...

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