The call by heads of state from the Southern African Development Community (SADC) to accord industrialisation centre stage on SADC's regional integration agenda comes hot in the heels of a similar proposal by the United Nations and the African Union (AU) earlier this year that called on Africa to refocus its economic development strategies on industrialization. The joint UN-AU report argued that industrialization is a “precondition for Africa to achieve inclusive and sustainable economic growth.”
While the benefits of industrialization cannot be downplayed, making it a precondition to development is putting the cart before the horse. It can lead to huge edifices that the continent’s citizens cannot service. It can lead to white elephant industrial parks for lack of innovation and productivity mindset.
The secret is to transform the mindset of the African population to focus on turning the problems Africa is facing into opportunities. In Africa today, there are entrepreneurial opportunities to feed the continent’s hungry people; kill malaria causing mosquitoes and ensure access to vital information. Focusing on developing Africa’s ultimate resource—its own people—will help translate the continent’s physical and intellectual resources into wealth.