Development of Africa’s human capital for industrialization dominates Africa-Asia partnerships talks

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Development of Africa’s human capital has been identified as key aspect to achieve industrialization.

During a TV debate at the African Development Bank Group Annual Meetings, African leaders recognised that a needs-based approach to human capital development would be crucial for the continent to leapfrog and achieve industrialization.

“Asia developed its human capital by adapting it to their needs. I think we can learn a lot from this approach – we have to know what we want, our vision, and then train our people according to development needs; so what matters is our vision to drive the training agenda,” said Vice President of Côte d’Ivoire, Daniel Kablan Duncan at a high-level Africa-Asia Partnerships debate on Tuesday.

The conversations discussed topics of mutual interest between the two regions whose trade relations dates back to 1955, when the first Asia-Africa Summit took place in Bandung, Indonesia.

While trade has increased – especially due to China’s economic ascendancy to become the world's second largest economy – most investments flow in one direction – from Asia to Africa, a skewed relationship which Africa seeks to change through experiences from Asian economies that have progressed.

But for this to happen, Africa has to put in place institutions and infrastructure that supports investments – to fill the manufacturing space left by Asian economies.

“Africa stands ready to fill the existing gap, however, the situation is a little bit different from that time and now,” said Patrice Talon, President of Benin. “The impact of trade and relocation of jobs will not at all be the same due to different conditions. What could be an impediment, although it is being addressed through support by AfDB, is energy efficiency – and other infrastructure and institutions that support investments.”

AfDB President Akinwumi Adesina agreed with African leaders’ recognition of political will to drive the transformation agenda and help Africa from exporting being a net export of raw materials to Asia to becoming an economic manufacturing hub.

“The challenge is that Africa exports a lot of raw materials to Asia – 83% of exports to China are raw materials, and I think the issue is how to calibrate and change this narrative,” said Adesina, adding that Africa has been exporting jobs due to lack of energy to drive industrialization, hence importance of the need to ‘Light up and power Africa.’

He said “political will is the currency of development,” highlighting India’s three-year journey of achieving a Green Revolution from being a food import dependent country to self-sufficiency.

And cementing the political will argument, Helen Hai, CEO of Made in Africa Initiative, a Chinese firm operating Ethiopia, urged African leaders to “cross the river by touching stones,” which in Chinese culture means “starting small to snowball into something big.”

“In 2011, the World Bank Doing Business report ranked Ethiopia 125. In theory, this means that no investor should come to such a country. Today, Ethiopia is becoming a global business hub of leather products. All it required was political will by the government to do it and started something,” concluded Hai.

Let’s Talk Africa-Asia Partnerships , AM 2017

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