African leaders were urged to improve the skills of young people and make the continent more attractive as a low-cost sourcing location during a summit.
The Conference of Ministers in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia, organised by the United Nations Economic Commission for Africa (UNECA), was told industrial transformation was required to raise living standards.
Nkosazana Dlamini Zuma, chairwoman of the African Union Commission, said African countries needed to improve young people’s skills in science and engineering.
“With an average of over 90% of graduates in social sciences, Africa’s innovation and scientific skills lag behind,” she said.
Zuma also spoke of the continent’s need to reduce import dependency and to create regional centres of innovation.
Carlos Lopes, executive secretary of UNECA, said that current growth in Africa had not generated sufficient jobs or been inclusive enough to significantly curb poverty.
He called for the continent to look into “structurally transforming, focusing on the potential offered by industrialisation”, expanding commodities value chains and attracting low-value manufacturing from Asia.
“Transformation will not happen spontaneously but rather as a result of deliberate and coherent policies that are entrenched into a coherent development strategy, enlightened by a transformational leadership,” Lopes said.
In a keynote speech Ethiopia’s prime minister, Haile Mariam Desalegn, urged African states to be “strategic, ambitious, rigorous and disciplined” if they are to achieve sustainable and inclusive development.
“Our future rests in our hands,” he said.