Africa is the second most-populated continent in the world; home to over 1.2 billion people (16 percent of the world’s population), and this number is expected to rise to 2.5 billion by 2050.
Despite this, Africa currently only accounts for less than 2 percent of international trade and global manufacturing.
Africa’s economic emergence, and transition, from a continent of low-income into middle-income economies, requires transforming the economic structure from predominantly agrarian and extractive activities to more vibrant and value-adding industrial sectors like processing, manufacturing, tourism, etc.
In 1989, the United Nations General Assembly, in 1989, proclaimed 20 November “Africa Industrialization Day,” within the framework of the Second Industrial Development Decade for Africa (1991-2000),
Since then, the United Nations System has held events on that day throughout the world to raise awareness about the importance of Africa’s industrialization and the challenges faced by the continent.
In 2008, the African Union adopted an "Action Plan for Accelerated Industrial Development of Africa," collaborating with the United Nations Industrial Development Organization (UNIDO) and the United Nations Economic Commission for Africa (UNECA).
In 2015, African countries signed up to two important development agendas: the global 2030 Agenda with 17 Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs), which aim to leave no one behind as countries develop, and Agenda 2063 of the African Union, which sets out a blueprint for "the Africa we want."
The important contribution of inclusive and sustainable industrial development in helping Africa overcome its critical development challenges is clearly recognized in the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development within Sustainable Development Goal 9 (SDG9), calling to build resilient infrastructure, promote sustainable industrialization and foster innovation.
The importance of inclusive and sustainable industrial development is also recognized under Agenda 2063, encompassed in Aspiration 1 of the First Ten-Year Implementation Plan, under "a prosperous Africa based on inclusive growth and sustainable development."
In 2018, 44 member States of the African Union signed the Agreement Establishing an African Continental Free Trade Area (AfCFTA), thus creating a single African market for goods and services.