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Politics & Current Affairs

Building a New African Economy

Kandeh Yumkella, Director General of the U.N. Industrial Development Organization asks: Could the changes unfolding in the Arab north usher in an Africa-wide industrial revolution?

What’s the Latest Development?

Africa’s economy still relies on the export of its resource-rich commodities: “According to the U.S. Geological Survey, Africa holds 90% of the world’s deposits of cobalt, 90% of its platinum, 50% of its gold, 98% of its chromium, 64% of its manganese, 33% of its uranium, and 80% of its columbite-tantalite.” Africa’s natural resources are valued at a conservative estimate of $1.2 trillion, says Kandeh Yumkella, Director General of the U.N. Industrial Development Organization. But rather than be content with exporting raw materials, efforts should be made to create a manufacturing industry in sub-Saharan Africa, says Yumkella.

What’s the Big Idea?

In order the achieve the Millennium Development Goals of eradicating extreme poverty and hunger, Africa must experience G.D.P. growth rates of more than seven percent annually, says Yumkella. That rate of growth is incompatible with merely exporting raw materials. “What Africa needs now is targeted support and investment in four main areas: down-stream processing of mineral resources, agro-industrial and agribusiness supply-chain development, pharmaceuticals, and infrastructure and energy.” Without this focus on economic development, uprisings similar to those in the North Africa may spread to the South.


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