Minister of Finance, Economic Planning and Development Goodall Gondwe has challenged African industry experts currently attending an industrialisation summit in Lilongwe that they should not waste time with rhetoric.
Gondwe was speaking yesterday at the opening of the 22nd Session of the Inter-Governmental Committee of Experts (ICE) of Southern Africa Development Community (Sadc).
He said Africa cannot continue to talk about industrialisation when on the ground nothing much is being done.
Gondwe said there is need for governments to move fast if the continent is to realise the full potential of industrialisation.
He said “I am almost 80 years old now and I have seen how much we have tried to industrialise, but we have failed. What normally comes out from conferences like these is the very same things that have been said before.
“When the colonialists left us in the early 1960s we thought we could industrialise faster but we failed. Maybe during that time many people were not qualified as you are, but they only had passion. Now that you are experts and well qualified in your respective sectors, we want to see results.”
The finance minister said he feels ashamed every time he goes to his village to see people living in grass-thatched houses and drinking water from same water sources with animals.
“It is shocking. I can have a television, good furniture in my house, but if the majority cannot access the basics, then we are failing in our job. This is how people lived 40 years ago,” said Gondwe.
He said what breaks his heart is that ‘almost all countries that have industrialised have used African resources, yet Africa is failing to utilise the available resources.
However, speaking on behalf of United Nations (UN) resident coordinator, UN Women chief for Africa Section, Anthony Ngororano, said Africa must put much emphasis on exporting commodities instead of industrialisation.
Citing a recent United Nations Economic Commission for Africa (Uneca) report which indicated that Africa has been enjoying a prolonged commodity boom and sustained growth since 2000, Ngororano said the sub regions’s dependence on primary production of natural resources greatly impedes economic diversification and the creation of forward, backward and lateral linkages provided by industrialisation.
The meeting is being held under the theme Implementing the Sadc Industrialisation Strategy and Roadmap: Options and Prospects, to find solutions to the challenges affecting the sub region and Africa as whole as far as industrialisation is concerned.