Regional industrialisation and integration in Southern Africa-UNU-WIDER reporting from the TIPS Annual Forum.

 
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30 September 2015

The white-painted cluster of traditional style buildings might suggest that this was a farm on the South African veldt. Not so however--it was Trade and Industrial Policy Strategies (TIPS) Annual Forum held on 14-15 July 2015 at the University of Witwatersrand, a high-level gathering of economists from the Southern African region joining in discussion with some specialists from key South African government departments (Trade and Industry and National Treasury), as well as international academics largely brought together by UNU-WIDER.

Rethinking in policy terms needed for increasing regional trade

Proceedings were opened by South Africa's Minister of Trade and Industry, Rob Davies, who gave an authoritative overview from the perspective of the South African government of some of the challenges facing the country and the region. As the TRALAC paper presented by William Mwanza makes clear, the regional challenge has at least three elements: market integration; industrial development; infrastructure development.

Some of the concerns of the conference--addressed by Saul Levin in this interview--can be well understood against the background of the diagnosis performed by the National Planning Commission (headed by South Africa's former Minister of Finance, Trevor Manuel) in developing the National Development Plan 2030. The NDP2030 focuses on eradicating poverty and decreasing inequality. The World Bank has stressed that the South African government is reaching the limits of what can be done through taxation and redistribution.

Renewable energy sources are key in the new industrial model

UNU-WIDER was showcasing some of the many strands of work being developed to study the region, with an emphasis of regional economic development, and also Africa's energy futures.

South Africa's industrial model in the past had been built upon strong resource endowments, as well as cheap and plentiful supplies of labour and energy--coal and electricity, above all. In a globalized world, this model is challenged on every front.

The UNU-WIDER project on energy futures is highly relevant. Africa has a huge pent-up demand for modern energy.

Infrastructure investment lasts for decades, so decisions taken now will have effects till 2050 and beyond. Development and climate change goals can be met together; secure, reliable and cheap supplies of renewables--such as hydropower, wind, and solar energy--can meet the needs of both of these goals to a...

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