The Weekly Tradecast: Economic diversification in Africa

14 July 2022

The series explores how major economic events affect developing countries. In the second episode, UNCTAD’s Africa director Paul Akiwumi talks about the urgent need for economic diversification on the continent.

The Weekly Tradecast podcast

The second episode of UNCTAD’s podcast “The Weekly Tradecast” released on 14 July focuses on why it’s more urgent than ever for African countries to diversify their economies and how they can do so.

Despite decades-long efforts to diversify, 45 out of the continent’s 54 countries remain dependent on exports of primary products in the agricultural, mining and extractive industries.

Soaring food and energy prices are hitting Africa especially hard as the region struggles with the impact of the COVID-19 pandemic, climate change and the war in Ukraine.

Paul Akiwumi, UNCTAD’s director of Africa, least developed countries and special programmes, says the continent must rethink how it diversifies its economies to build its resilience to economic shocks.

“It’s critical that African countries start now looking at how they can build the resilience for themselves,” Mr. Akiwumi says.

UNCTAD’s Economic Development in Africa Report 2022 outlines the opportunities that African countries can tap into in high knowledge-intensive services, such as information technology and financial services.

Mr. Akiwumi says these sectors provide the decent and high-level jobs that Africa needs to develop, as its middle class continues to grow.

He says African countries are making progress in these sectors, but they need to have the regulatory framework to diversify into high-value services more efficiently and swiftly.