24 years old Kingsley Job Obasi (Nigerian), is the winner of the African Union Youth Essay Contest on “Industrialization and Innovation in Africa”. His essay, titled “Manufacturing: The Key to Economic Prosperity and Sustainable Development in Africa,” articulates how manufacturing can unlock the economic prosperity of the African continent to create a sustainable future for its people. He argues that when backed by policies that promote growth, manufacturing encourages economic development by providing opportunities for massive job creation, productivity growth, and innovation. “When I say that manufacturing is key, I mean that it functions like a key–used to either open the economy or to kickstart the engine of development. Attempting to unlock your front door at home serves as a fantastic illustration. If you really needed to get in, you could try smashing the door in but that would not be the best course of action if you happened to have the key. I would argue, based on this reasoning, that manufacturing is central to Africa’s economic growth and sustainable development.”
Kingsley was selected the winner from hundreds of applicants from across the continent who responded to the call to share proposals on the elements of industrialization should be prioritized to enhance synergies with Africa’s development agenda. The essay contest targeting young people between ages of 15 to 35 was intended to harness the energy, creativity, and initiative of the African youth, in promoting a culture of sustainable development in Africa, with a particular focus on industrialization and innovation. The essays focused on the theme “Industrialising Africa: Renewed commitment towards an Inclusive and Sustainable Industrialization and Economic Diversification”, providing the youth the opportunity to elaborate on the challenges, but most importantly, recommendations on actions oriented solutions that would influence the trajectory of industrialization on the continent.
Coming in second place, 20 years old Owachi Aaron (Uganda), whose essay, “Hitting many birds with one stone: the kind of industrialization Africa needs”, provides an analytical look at fundamental issues on the slow pace of industrialization in Africa and makes recommendations on how the continent can “get its foot on the economic ladder” by focusing more on industrial and scientific needs, and research. He further concludes that with a call to the leaders to move commitments to actions, “the key constraint on Africa’s industrialization has been political rather than purely technical or economic. Some States lack the capacity or will to produce a coherent and emphatic analysis and policy package for industrial sectors. The debate on African industrialization will end if there’s an active involvement of the State.”
26 years old Edwin Hlangwani (South Africa), was selected in third place, making the spot from his essay on “Scientific Lessons from Chinua Achebe’s “Things Fall Apart.” A Reconciliation of Indigenous Knowledge Systems and the Fourth Industrial Revolution in Reforming Africa.” He makes reference to the relevance of African tradition and Indigenous knowledge. He in part observes that, “even without the exact science, our ancestors were scientists. They leveraged natural resources all around them to their benefit. That, in every sense of the word, is science. Today, the intelligent application of scientific methods in traditional milieus is referred to as Indigenous knowledge systems. To illustrate this point, it is best to explore one of nature’s intriguing gifts – fire. Fire’s first manifestation to humankind proved to be a revolutionary technology. Since the introduction of sophisticated sources of energy such as electricity, fire has been demoted to the ranks of primitive science.”
In fourth place, Sulaiman Munda Bonnie, (Sierra Leone), focuses on “A Redefined Strategy for Industrialization and Innovation in Africa: The Africa We Want”, and make recommendations on the implementation of a two-pronged approach that is people-centered where the leaders and young people work in synergy. He asserts, “in as much we crave the indulgence of governments to fund brilliant ideas and startups, young people should also create sustainable businesses and ideas that can drive Africa’s Fourth Industrial Revolution agenda forward. For example, a graduate in informational communication technology, engineering, management studies et cetera, must be retained by their universities to help birth proven solutions to Africa’s teething problem. Doesn’t it brother us when governments award contracts to foreign countries when no book or theory has written our potential off yet? Apparently, the enabling environment is lacking on the continent and this accounts for the current surge in brain drain. It is as clear as a pikestaff that innovators and entrepreneurs can drive economies forward!”
23 years old Chinoeso Samantha Kanoyangwa (Zimbabwe), makes emphasizes on the need for the AfCFTA to foster inclusion and sustainable approach that promotes industrialization and diversification for all African Member countries. Titled “The African Continental Free Trade Area (AfCFTA) as a Conduit for Inclusive and Sustainable Industrialization and Economic Diversification” the essay in part, observes that “it is absolutely essential that African States do not create the largest single free trade area of consumption, but rather one of industrialization where, for instance, value is added to existing natural resources for sustainable growth. As such, it is critical to form findings and provide recommendations about the subject matter at hand. The proposed solutions will, ultimately, improve the AfCFTA in such a way that ensures the effective establishment of a functioning single market, the smooth flow of foreign direct investment, and maximization of opportunities by women and youth.
The essays were judged on their strength, relevance, innovation, and use of academic sources by a panel of nine members of the AU Summit on Industrialization and Economic Diversification partner institutions. The top three winners will participate in the 17th Extraordinary Summit of the Assembly of the African Union on Industrialization and Economic Diversification and Africa Industrialization Week from the 20-25 November 2022.
Other young persons whose essays made it to the top ten were, Najikpan Ropou (Chad); Mouhamed Ben Omar (Senegal); Kudzai Chidzikwe (Zimbabwe); Thierno Malick Diallo (Senegal); Charles Mwanje (Uganda); and Ruby Achenyo Issac (Nigeria).
The AU Summit on Industrialization and Economic Diversification will be a dedicated continental platform to refocus the attention on accelerating Africa’s industrialization as a key to unlocking the continent’s productive capacities which also ensures the successful implementation of the African Continental Free Trade Area.