The European Business Council for Africa


At the beginning of 2020, the prospects for the continent were promising, as Africa was progressing with economic expansion and poverty reduction. Technology and innovation were increasingly embraced. The entry into force of the AfCFTA promised a strong boost in intra-African trade. Still, Africa continued to face important challenges to achieve the goals of the 2030 Agenda and Agenda 2063. The socioeconomic effects of the COVID-19 pandemic exacerbated these challenges. In sub-Saharan Africa, the steady increase in manufacturing production since 1986 was reversed and dropped below the 1.3 per cent recorded in 2019, while many companies transitioned to producing essential medical supplies to make up for the lower levels of international demand for other products. The effects of climate change continue to impact the continent, causing droughts and food insecurity among the 70 million people in the Sahel, further threatened by locust infestations. In southern Africa, growth was slowed by cyclones Idai and Kenneth and the devastation of infrastructure and agriculture in Malawi, Mozambique, and Zambia. UNIDO addresses the region’s main challenge of poverty by giving people the tools, skills, education, and infrastructure to create sustainable livelihoods. Capacity-building activities target MSMEs and vulnerable population groups such as women and youth. About half of UNIDO projects in the region support safeguarding the environment. Other work adds value to agricultural commodities, linking input providers, farmers, traders, processors, distributors, and retailers, and supports post-crisis countries in their economic recovery.

UNIDO at work in Africa

Economic transformation is critical to keep IDDA III moving forward. UNIDO is the lead implementing organization, and provides technical assistance through its country programmes (CPs), PCPs and projects to build and leverage synergies with ongoing government and partner interventions relevant to industrial development. In 2020, UNIDO worked closely with its United Nations partners to support country and regional responses to COVID-19. Contributions to socioeconomic impact assessments were made, among others, in Botswana, Cabo Verde, Cameroon, Guinea-Bissau, Madagascar, Mali, and Zambia. In Guinea, Madagascar, Nigeria, Senegal, and Zimbabwe, UNIDO chaired committees or helped develop socioeconomic recovery plans. UNIDO Member States 45 29 LDCs 6 SIDS 22 MICs UNIDO local presence in 19 countries incl. regional hubs and a regional office in Ethiopia, Nigeria, South Africa 9 Country programmes (2020) PCP in Côte d’Ivoire, Ethiopia, Rwanda, Senegal, the United Republic of Tanzania, and Zambia Technical cooperation contributions (2020) $36.2 million Current UNSDCFs signed (total): 31 New UNSDCFs signed in 2020: Angola (2020–2022), Ethiopia (2020–2025), and Uganda (2021–2025) Member States EU GEF MLF 9.99 15.24 5.34 0.74 4.88 Others REGIONAL PERSPECTIVES 55 In line with its COVID-19 response framework, UNIDO helped African countries and enterprises prepare, respond and recover to regain industrial capacity, adapted to the new worldwide conditions. To prepare and contain, UNIDO supported projects across the continent to develop innovations like an automatic gel dispenser with an infrared sensor, and to help companies reorganize or enhance local production of PPE. UNIDO collaborated with the Industrial Association of Mozambique to advocate for extraordinary measures supporting the manufacturing sector. In South Africa, training on safety and security for health-care waste management was expanded. To respond and adapt, UNIDO provided technical support to help pharmaceutical and biomedical companies in Burkina Faso increase their capacity. In Madagascar, where 98 per cent of health commodities and medicines are imported, UNIDO began a collaboration with WHO and the United Nations Population Fund (UNFPA) to initiate local pharmaceutical production. Training helped textile and leather companies convert to sewing face masks. To recover and transform, UNIDO launched the CIRP, which provides targeted support to least developed, low- and lower MICs restructuring their industrial sector to better meet the changing regional and international needs. Working with the African Development Bank (AfDB), an analysis of the impact is guiding Governments in designing economic growth recovery programmes. Nine countries were selected for this initiative: Côte d’Ivoire, the Democratic Republic of the Congo, Kenya, Mauritius, Rwanda, Senegal, South Africa, Tunisia, and Zambia. The PCPs in the Africa region progressed at different stages. A continuation of PCP Ethiopia, reaching completion, has been recommended until 2025. PCP Senegal continued to contribute to enhanced governance and policymaking in industrial development. Programming advanced in Côte d’Ivoire, Rwanda and Zambia, while a new PCP was approved in October 2020 for the United Republic of Tanzania. In 2020, nine CPs were being implemented in the region, with 11 new ones under formulation. In support of the development of new UNSDCFs, UNIDO provided expertise in the CCAs of Botswana, Cabo Verde, Cameroon, Guinea-Bissau, Madagascar, Mali, and Zambia.

New standards developed and adopted for masks and hydro-alcoholic hand products

Better value chain integration, including into the newly established African Continental Free Trade Area (AfCFTA), helps strengthen West African economies. To establish a harmonized regional system for meeting market requirements, UNIDO and the International Trade Centre (ITC) started the West Africa Competitiveness and Quality Infrastructure programme, funded by the European Union, in 2018. It is part of a long-term UNIDO programme that has already harmonized 15 national quality policies in the region since 2001. When the COVID-19 pandemic arrived in West Africa, the need for face masks and hand sanitizer escalated. The project thus quickly expanded its focus to harmonizing national quality standards for those two products. One hundred participants, working online in English and French, developed harmonized regional standards. The Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS) adopted these in May 2020 as the benchmark for all 15 of its member countries as well as for Mauritania.

Ghanaian companies shift services due to COVID-19 and increase opportunities

In the spring of 2020, the Ghana component of the West Africa Competitiveness Programme was in its first year of strengthening value chains for cassava, fruit and cosmetics. The arrival of the coronavirus suddenly intensified demand for hand sanitizer, prompting UNIDO to help 38 cosmetics manufacturers switch production, implement standard operating procedures, and meet regional quality standards and official registration. As stores were shuttered, UNIDO ran a workshop on how to reach customers via social media and how to sell merchandise online. One business owner saw her income rise by 40 per cent in one month.Newly adopted quality standards for sanitizers improved safety, but the pandemic posed a practical problem as international experts could no longer travel to Ghana to advise testing laboratories. In response, the programme procured smart glasses for laboratory technicians, allowing consultants to see through the technicians’ eyes, virtually transporting the experts to Ghana. The programme will continue after the end of the pandemic, as the glasses reduce the environmental footprint and expenses of travel. By the end of 2020, UNIDO helped Ghana adopt 38 international standards on medical face masks, personal eye protection, surgical clothing and drapes, medical gloves and lung ventilators. This not only increased safety, but also opened up new international business opportunities.

Protecting South African waste pickers keeps recycling industry strong

South Africa depends on 60,000 waste pickers to handle most recycling in the country. This labour keeps recyclables in value chains and reduces the leakage of plastics into the ocean. Yet waste pickers work informally, without protection from the toxins in their workplaces. The risks have intensified with the COVID-19 pandemic, as waste can be infectious. In July 2020, UNIDO provided uniforms, gloves, boots, and masks to waste pickers in the Free State, KwaZulu-Natal and the Western Cape, allowing them to work more safely. Sixty per cent of reclaimers at those sites are women. The project also gave them a four-ton truck so they can go further to pick up materials. The UNIDO project also supports the transition from conventional plastics to more environmentally sustainable alternatives, such as water-soluble plastics. The Government of Japan is funding a three-year initiative to support the G20’s Blue Ocean Vision, which aims to end the flow of plastic into oceans by 2050. The UNIDO project joined the COVID-19 waste management group in 2020 as part of a $135 million flash appeal launched by the United Nations in South Africa in April. The coordinated action raised awareness of the importance of these integrated activities and demonstrated ways to reduce waste and improve water quality.

The initiative can serve as a model for good safety practices that can be adopted by other countries in southern Africa. It also brings waste pickers closer to formal employment. Those workers are key to keeping recycling rates high in South Africa, despite the lack of government mandates.

Hundreds of millions of people worldwide have only sporadic or limited access to electricity, while 789 million people have none at all. In sub-Saharan Africa, 72 per cent of health facilities cannot count on reliable electricity. As COVID-19 vaccines need refrigeration, lack of electricity for cold chains raises life-and-death issues of equity. Clean energy systems, such as renewable energybased mini-grids and small hydropower, can supply better quality electricity less expensively than those based on carbon technologies, and could create 40 million jobs by 2050. To support this transition, UNIDO is advising 59 Governments on policies, regulations and guidelines, and is building capacity in SMEs. In 2020, the Small Hydropower Technical Guidelines assisted Member States in designing and implementing plants with a capacity of up to 30 MW and served as a reference for the International Workshop Agreement IWA 33 developed by the International Organization for Standardization. Sixteen countries and eight international organizations agreed to apply the technical guidelines in their respective countries and organizations. The 2019 World Small Hydropower Development Report provided essential planning data and 166 country-specific chapters and 18 case studies. In addition, UNIDO has published numerous technical guides on developing mini-grids for rural industrialization and other technologies. UNIDO successfully demonstrated technologies that reduced GHG emissions, and scaled up programmes through training in the Gambia, Guinea-Bissau, Mozambique, and Sierra Leone. With funding from Japan, an internet of things platform is enhancing the efficiency of geothermal energy production in Kenya, while sensors developed for power generators and turbines are improving the efficiency of geothermal electricity production in the Great Rift Valley. In Morocco, a new utility scale vanadium flow-battery storage system enhances the performance of a solar power plant. The Climate Technology Centre and Network (CTCN), jointly hosted by the United Nations Environment Programme (UNEP) and UNIDO, connects countries to climate technologies. The network launched a $10 million small grants programme for projects to foster climate change adaptation in developing countries. It also held its annual Venture Day, where more than 250 companies have pitched their projects since 2006 and brought in as much as €600 million in investments.

Renewable energy in Guinea-Bissau serves as model for West Africa

When UNIDO began this partnership with GuineaBissau in 2014, the country’s energy situation was dire. Nationwide, only 5.3 per cent of the population had access to electricity, and just 2 per cent in rural areas. This put pressure on forest resources, and smoke from biomass used for cooking caused health problems among women and children. The Government had no funds to develop renewable energy that could wean the country from oil.

Prior to a GEF-funded UNIDO project, which set Guinea-Bissau on the path for sustainable low-carbon development, there were no renewable energy projects in the country apart from a few solar home systems, and no strategies or funding for them. The project changed the situation by equipping the Government with a policy framework and an investment plan. It also attracted $8 million in investments for renewable energy technologies. It built confidence in renewable technology by installing a 312-kilowatt photovoltaic system in Bambadinca, a village outside Bissau. Most of its 780 households now have electricity 24 hours a day. Batteries store energy, and diesel generators only provide back-up. A non-profit organization has trained local people to handle accounting and maintenance, and the community manages the system. The project will reduce GHG emissions by 8,180 tons of CO2-equivalent over its 20-year lifetime

Families and businesses involved in agriculture and the processing of cashew, cassava, and fruits have benefited particularly from the cooling and irrigation that electricity makes possible. While watching technicians install the 1,248 solar panels required, Lurdes Gomes, a resident of Bambadinca, rejoiced that her children would no longer need to study by candlelight, the household would have a refrigerator, and they could run a fan at night to keep mosquitos away. Guinea-Bissau’s National Renewable Energy Investment Plan has developed a project pipeline of $30 million. The country aims to generate 50 per cent renewable energy at peak demand by 2030. The project can serve as a model for ECOWAS and will facilitate South-South knowledge transfer.

Rural Mozambique communities connect to digital schools through diesel and solar power

Mozambique has a rural electrification rate of only 27 per cent, and the extension of electricity grids has been stymied by the fact that people live in sparsely settled, remote areas. Many rural residents have no opportunity to watch television or connect to the Internet. By supporting the Community Tablet project, UNIDO has taken a step towards greater digital inclusivity. In rural Mozambique, 10 Community Tablets funded by GEF serve as first digital schools. A Community Tablet arrives at a settlement in a container that can be pulled by a truck, van or even a donkey. The tablet runs on four to six large LCD screens. These touch screens can be linked with cameras and a large screen to allow outdoor video conferencing for groups. Community members gather around to watch programmes on financial education, contraception and HIV, women’s empowerment, vaccinations and health, including the spread and prevention of the novel coronavirus.

Source: UNIDO