Industry and innovation are critical for Africa’s wealth generation


According to speakers at the first edition of the Prof Calestous Juma Lecture Series on Inclusive Knowledge and Innovation, held by Kenya-based think tank African Centre for Technology Studies (ACTS), Africans have been neglecting to establish an industrial foundation for 50 years,

“On the basis of raw material exports, no country can develop a long-term future. Despite implementing some trade liberalization measures over the past decades, African countries have failed to achieve the projected growth and development dividend, and have remained at the bottom of the poverty ladder because we failed to diversify our economies and technological base,” said Prof Banji Oyelaran-Oyeyinka, senior special adviser on industrialization.

On August 12 and 13, academics and practitioners from around the world gathered to debate Africa’s industrialization inadequacies and opportunities at the inaugural seminar, “Re-igniting Africa industry through inclusive knowledge and innovation.”

Prof Wesley Harris, President of the Calestous Juma Legacy Foundation (CJLF), stated that people, health, energy, and education must be at the center of the engine that propels technology and innovation.

“Without the people of Africa, (Africa) cannot succeed. The development of wealth in a positive sense will not occur in a capitalistic sense—with only a few people owning all of a country’s land—but rather for the benefit of everybody.

Prof. Oyeyinka claimed that an agrarian Africa had fallen behind, with exportable raw resources such as coffee, tea, flowers, raw minerals, and tourism still defining the continent.

Despite having vast reserves of minerals such as cobalt (52.4 percent of global supplies), bauxite for aluminium production (24.7 percent), graphite (21.2 percent), manganese (46 percent), and vanadium (16 percent) in the 1950s, he said, Africa’s mineral-dependent countries’ economic backwardness was largely due to a lack of critical scientific infrastructure, investment, and technology.

Africa produces 70% of the world’s cocoa beans, with 80% of them already sold before they are harvested.

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