Let me at the outset express my sincere appreciation to be part of the 2nd Global Leaders Investment Summit, held under the theme: “Investment in a New Era of Industrialisation”. This theme is relevant and timely in view of how the global manufacturing landscape and technological innovation have radically changed the way we transact business. I therefore wish to take this opportunity to share my perspectives regarding the new industrialization agenda and its impact on the developing nations, like my country, Botswana.
In recent years we have observed an increase among investors in the international arena who bring technology into industries. As you are aware, technology requires huge funding across different sectors and as a result we find that industrialisation brings its own sustainable development concerns, particularly with regard to inclusive growth and employment as a result of advanced manufacturing technologies.
Nonetheless, we recognise that this new development in industrialization does not only present challenges but also presents opportunities. As such, firms in developing countries like mine, may become new entrants to global competitive levels with the right technology for the production of goods and services thus benefiting our economies. In my view, the sound and stable business environment in my country would still serve as a good facilitator to benefit from this kind of investment.
Despite the vast opportunities presented by digitalisation, developing countries have not yet fully realised the potential of harnessing digital technology for sustainable development, due to, among others, inadequate Information and Communications Technology (ICT) infrastructure, inadequate skills development, and socio-economic barriers that prevent much of the developing world’s population from engaging in the digital economy.
We have observed that the new industrialisation agenda calls for a change in the way we view investment. We realise that this new concept presents a change in the competitiveness of developing countries to attract Foreign Direct Investment. Accordingly, our strategic thinking in pursuit of investors will need to take this into consideration.
Our regulatory environment will need to keep abreast with changes in investor behaviour and the evolving landscape of advanced manufacturing and digital investors. It is in this regard that my Government continues to review policies and the legal framework, as well as institutions that are meant to respond to the evolving landscape of the new industrialization agenda.
These are espoused in both our National Vision 2036 and National Development Plans. There are also diversification initiatives that are anticipated to usher in new products and diversify our Gross Domestic Product. In this regard there is need for benchmarks in the areas of physical, regulatory, business to business, digital connectivity and supply side connectivity, which are pivotal to the new industrialisation agenda.
For us to achieve the intended results with the new industrialization agenda, it has become critical to develop partnerships with international development partners. These will act as building blocks that will be complemented by the aspiring visions at national, regional, continental as well as at multilateral levels.
Digital industrialisation can create new types of jobs, new sectors and new services. This could be of benefit in terms of creating the envisaged diversity, efficiency and effectiveness in service provision. I trust that, with all the ingredients in place, the attainment of the Sustainable Development Goals is not farfetched.
Notwithstanding these, both the developed, developing and the least developed economies should have mutual benefits as digitalisation can have detrimental effects if not strategically implemented. It has come to my knowledge that implementation of this initiative will put jobs at risk due to computerisation, automation and robotics.
Likewise, countries with developed broadband infrastructure and e-skilled workers, as well as widespread use of the internet and digital public services, are likely to be less threatened by digitalisation than countries with a less developed digital infrastructure. This means that developing economies with inadequate ICT infrastructure are at risk.
The fourth industrial revolution therefore, offers developing countries, especially in Africa, an opportunity to participate meaningfully in the global economy. Through its youthful and fastest growing population, the continent stands to benefit from the fourth industrial revolution.
According to the World Economic Forum, the Future Jobs Report 2016, more than one-third of all jobs in all industries are expected to require complex problem-solving as a core skill by 2020. It is against this backdrop that concerted efforts should be made to ensure that digitalisation retools the available resources to ensure that it does not aggravate the youth unemployment which is ravaging the world at large, with the developing and the least developed economies being the most affected.
It is also worth noting that industrial strategies targeting the new industrialisation agenda are currently being taken on by developed nations and a few emerging economies, whilst in most developing countries policies are unreservedly dealing with traditional industrial policies.
Given the pace of technological development in industry, we are of the view that there is an urgent need, not only to identify technological developments, but above all to take stock of their short and long-term implications on current industrial strategies of developing countries.
We therefore urge the United Nations to undertake an exercise to ensure that the adverse effects that may potentially arise out of this new development are minimised for developing countries. The exercise should also assist us to harness opportunities which arise out of industrialisation.
The new industrialization agenda is yet to be realized, as my Government is still striving to bring in technological advancement through the implementation of the Botswana Industrial Policy and the SADC Industrialisation Strategy and Roadmap. We hope that the new industrialisation agenda will bring about changes that will enable the achievements of industrialisation in Africa and create the much needed employment.
*President Dr Mokgweetsi Masisi addressing the UNCTAD World Investment Forum 2018 Global Leaders Investment Summit II, Geneva, Switzerland