The United Nations Economic Commission for Africa (ECA) has urged Africa to focus on commodity-based industrialization and agro-alliied activities with new policy approaches.

The ECA has in many editions of its annual Economic Report made a push for the Developmental State and a return to planning, arguing that the strong role of the State is key to fostering Africa’s structural transformation.

The Acting ECA Executive Secretary, Abdalla Hamdok, again spoke on the need for new policy approaches to incentivize agricultural production in activities and sectors with higher returns in his remarks at the opening of the African Economic Conference on “Feeding Africa: Towards Agro-Allied Industrialization for Inclusive Growth”. The conference is taking place in Abuja, Nigeria from Monday to Wednesday,

Hamdok said: “Our desire for structural transformation will not be realized without strong and inclusive institutions that are backed by well-coordinated development plans and supported by innovative and flexible industrial policy mechanisms.”

Hamdok said agro-allied industries would require “targeting local content measures with specific emphasis on skills development, technological capabilities and access to capital and markets, as well as co-operation between buyers and suppliers at every stage of the value chain”.

Nigeria’s Vice-President Yemi Osinbajo, who spoke on behalf of President Muhammadu Buhari, disclosed numerous efforts being made by the Nigerian Government to support agriculture and its value chains to diversify and transform the economy in the absence of oil resources, which had formed the backbone of the economy.

He expressed the hope that the conference would come up with evidence-based research and knowledge of good practices which can help Nigeria and other African countries to transform their agricultural production for more sustainable growth.

African Development Bank (AfDB) President Akinwumi Adesina reminded participants that Nigeria was chosen to host the conference largely because of its enormous potential in agriculture, which, if well harnessed has the potential to become a global powerhouse through agro-industrialization.

Agriculture contributes more than 28 per cent of Africa’s gross domestic product (GDP) and holds the key to accelerated growth and diversification and job creation for African economies, Adesina said.

The Director for Africa of the UN Development Programme (UNDP), Abdoulaye Mar Dieye, urged African governments to work together with their bilateral and multilateral partners to support the continent’s agro-allied industrialization agenda.

“Agriculture can be the golden gate to Africa’s prosperity; it is the high octane oil that, if properly processed, can radically transform the continent,” Dieye said.

The African Economic Conference is co-organized by the AfDB, the UN ECA and the UNDP.