Prosper Ndlovu in NIAMEY, Niger
PRESIDENT Mnangagwa has said Zimbabwe would no longer lag behind other nations in terms of development as ongoing economic transformation measures being spearheaded under the Second Republic were already yielding positive results.
In keeping with regional and global development goals, he said Zimbabwe was making strides in structurally transforming its economy and roping in every stakeholder to contribute to national development.
In an interview yesterday at the close of the African Union Extraordinary Heads of State and Government Summit on industrialisation and economic transformation here, he said Zimbabwe’s development story was slowly gaining the attention of regional peers, hence the focus on this year’s summit: “Industrialising Africa: Renewed commitment towards an inclusive and sustainable industrialisation and economic diversification”, speaks to issues that the country is already seized with.
During the Summit, African leaders and economic experts had intense discussion on how to harness industrialisation opportunities with special focus on driving value chain development and scaling up intra-Africa trade.
In that regard, President Mnangagwa said Zimbabwe had started tackling bottlenecks that previously impeded industrial transformation.
“The most important thing is that Africa currently is focusing on integration where all the five regions’ every effort is being done to assist each other to develop together,” said President Mnangagwa.
“I realise that looking at the content of the discussions and the purpose put forward at the conference, Zimbabwe is very comfortable because we already have the community development focus back home.
“In terms of infrastructure that is being talked about, especially in the area of road construction in the countryside, agriculture development in the countryside and energy in the countryside, we are already working on these.
“All these enablers for industrialisation are already focused on them. So, I’m so happy there is hardly any area where we can say Zimbabwe is remaining behind,” said the President.
“The only issue, perhaps, is the pace at which we are developing, realising that we are an isolated economy because of sanctions.”
Reflecting on the outcomes of the Summit, which saw regional leaders spending hours in closed-door engagements, the President said there was consensus that every African member state must qualify to be part of the continental industrialisation drive, which is expressed in the African Continental Free Trade Area (AfCFTA).
With the grand aim of integrating the region’s economy in the long term, President Mnangagwa stressed the need for African States to embrace the deal and deepen collaboration by striving to play their part in ensuring attainment of a common destiny.
As one of the pioneers in ratifying the AfCFTA deal, he said Zimbabwe was committed to fully playing its role as it has already aligned its domestic development policy focus with the regional transformation ideals.
In doing so, the President said the country was looking into the future and building a legacy that will benefit the country’s youth and future generations.
He challenged the youth to also come and embrace science, technology and innovation as critical tools to buttress economic growth, riding on the supportive Government policy framework.
“What we’re doing is not building the past but building the future and the future are the youth. If you follow the debate Zimbabwe is already ahead in those issues, that our universities must teach science and technology, we are actually beyond science and technology but now on innovation,” said the President.
Earlier during the official opening session of the summit, different speakers reflected on industrialisation gaps and how Africa could bridge these.
Chairperson of the African Union Commission, Mr Moussa Faki Mahamat, stressed the need for African leaders to combine their efforts towards transforming the continent through driving a robust industrialisation agenda, which demands strong political will and common purpose.
“This requires unity for us to create the Africa we want. It’s up to Africa to pursue economic development. It’s up to us to have political will,” he said.
Summit host President, Mohamed Bazoum, who commended Zimbabwe for its commitment to the regional development agenda, said Africa will only be successful if it fully implements the African Free Trade Area (AfCFTA) in full
“Industrialisation and trade go hand in hand . The industrialisation of Africa will only succeed if we implement the Africa Free Trade Area,” he said.
“Knowing where we come from is important and we need to clearly define the kind of industrialisation we want.”
Rwandan President, Paul Kagame, said while the AfCFTA was a critical transformative tool in Africa’s disposal, there was need to quicken the implementation momentum.
“No one can make it alone, we need to work together. The pace of industrialisation in Africa remains too slow to achieve the goals set under Africa Agenda 2063,” he said.
Given Africa’s rich natural endowments, which include minerals and vast tracts of fertile land, African leaders here have said it is high time the continent exploits these to boost its economies and create more jobs.
“There is a need to increase energy generation and budget support to bridge infrastructure gaps while building stronger linkages between industries and governments,’’ President Kagame added.
He commended the AfCFTA Secretariat for good progress as more states are embracing the deal but said more still needs to be done to ensure collective efforts towards full implementation of the deal.
“We have a choice to make, the future is in our hands, let’s make the right choices,” he said.
African Development Bank (AfDB) president, Dr Akinwumi Adesina, said in a speech read on his behalf that the AfCFTA demands the continent to move with speed in closing the infrastructure gap and enhancing access to industrialisation finance to unlock higher regional production capacity.
He pledged the bank’s continued support to ensure sustained momentum towards transforming Africa.
AfreximBank chairperson and president, Professor Benedict Oramah said his organisation was working closely with the AU Commission to unlock higher continental industrialisation as well as promoting trade.
He said AfreximBank has helped central banks across Africa to mitigate the adverse impacts of COVID-19 through procurement of vaccines and protective clothing as well as facilitating food and fertiliser, among other interventions.