AU Honours Niger’s President Issoufou

Nigerien President Issoufou Mahamadou, also champion of the African Continental Free Trade Area (AfCFTA), was on Friday named Champion of African Industrialisation, in recognition of his invaluable contribution to the industrial development of Africa.

He was honoured during the high-level session held by video conference on the celebration of Africa’s Industrialisation Week, local media reported from the Nigerien capital.

According to the reports, former Nigerian President, Olusegun Obasanjo, who is member of the Afro-Champions Initiative and co-chair of the Coalition for Dialogue on Africa, presented the Nigerien Head of State a symbolic plaque in his honour.

The main initiators of this distinction are the African Union Commission, the United Nations Industrial Development Organization (UNIDO), the UN Economic Commission for Africa (ECA) and the African Import-Export Bank (Afreximbank).

President Issoufou Mahamadou said he was very honoured by this distinction, especially at a time when he is preparing to hand over the leadership of the Nigerien people to a candidate who will be elected in the next presidential election, of which the first round is scheduled for December 27.

The Nigerien president wanted to dedicate this distinction to the African youth who are impatiently awaiting the benefits, especially in terms of jobs, and of the integration actions implemented on the continent.

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“The recorded success proves, if it is needed, is the importance of leadership in development. Continental leadership is crystallised in a vision, that of Agenda 2063, of which the AfCFTA is one of the flagship projects with a view to lifting our continent out of poverty by building a resilient and autonomous Africa,” he underlined.

On the theme of this week of African industrialization, “inclusive and sustainable industrialisation in the era of the AfCFTA”, the Nigerien Head of State explained that to promote inclusive and sustainable industrial development, it is essential to have a large market space.

On this point, Mr. Mahamadou recalled that Africa is too balkanised with 55 states and nearly 84,000 kms of borders, “so many obstacles which limit exchanges between the citizens of the continent”.

He emphasised the importance of the AfCFTA, saying that through the deal, “we are creating a vast single market of 1.3 billion people where goods and services can be traded freely”.

“The start of exchanges under the AfCFTA, initially scheduled for July 2020, delayed due to COVID 19, is finally scheduled for January 1, 2021. This will be a new strong signal that Africa will send to the world.

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“This will confirm its firm will to participate united in a fair multilateral trading system ”, said the Nigerien president, who believes that the acceleration of the second phase of negotiations on investments, competition and intellectual property, will strengthen this will.

President Issoufou also referred to several innovation and sustainability requirements which are part of the technological processes associated with industrialisation, namely mechanisation, mass production, information and communication technologies, automation and digitisation.

He also mentioned the challenge of preparing future generations for the technological demands of tomorrow and being better positioned to ensure the future industrial success of the continent.

The Head of State has also marked other areas on which their quest for inclusive sustainable development must be focused, in particular the transformation of resources into wealth, the mechanisation of the agricultural sector, as well as the promotion of agro-industry, the need for modern transport and logistics infrastructure for the continent; the Small and Medium-Sized Enterprises (SMEs) strategy and the related 2017-2021 master plan, as well as special economic zones.

Mr. Mahamadou noted that the COVID-19 pandemic has unprecedented consequences on the economy of Africa, which constitutes one more argument which should lead them to accelerate the implementation of the action plan for the Accelerated Industrial Development of Africa.

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He called on African countries to aggressively embark on inclusive sustainable industrialisation and on all African Union member states to sign and ratify the Agreement establishing the AfCFTA so that, with the single market created, increased investment essential for job creation and a faster post-COVID-19 recovery will be attracted.

“I reiterate my solemn appeal to the Secretary General of the United Nations for the organisation of a special summit on the industrialisation of Africa that Niger will be happy to host in November 2021,” he concluded.

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