Opening remarks at the Ministerial Conference on New Partnerships for the Development of Productive Capacities in LDCs
Speech by the Executive Director of the International Trade Centre at the Ministerial Conference on New Partnerships for the Development of Productive Capacities in LDCs on 28 July 2014 Cotonou, Benin.
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President of Benin, the Hon. Boni Yayi
Minister for Foreign Affairs, African Integration, Francophonie, and Beninese Abroad of Benin, the Hon. Nassirou Bako Arifari,
Heads of United Nations Agencies
Ladies and Gentlemen
Partnerships. This is the central theme of this Ministerial Conference this week. Partnerships signify equality. It signifies two way learning and a circular flow of knowledge and information. It confers moving forward with a shared vision. It is a powerful word with great responsibility attached.
The International Trade Centre is built on the concept of partnerships. We are the products of the World Trade Organisation and the United Nations coming together. We are about transforming trade opportunities into realities. We work with the private sector and with governments to help Small and Medium Enterprises internationalise. We work with trade support institutions to improve the business environment. We work with other international organisations to ensure maximum impact.
And we work very closely with Least Developed countries. In fact LDCs and Sub-Saharan Africa represent over 60% of our interventions. One, because this is where the needs for Aid for Trade are greater; and two, because in the medium to long term it is in the LDCs that the greatest impact will be made to achieve our common objective of eliminating poverty.
In LDCs, ITC interventions can make a concrete difference to the lives of people. Working with the cotton industry in Benin; supporting agri-business in Lesotho; developing SME clusters in Rwanda; facilitating WTO accession in Ethiopia; driving the pashmina industry in Nepal; creating impact through the IT industry in Bangladesh; supporting implementation of trade facilitation in UEMOA; unlocking women’s economic empowerment in Zambia; creating markets for coffee producers in Uganda and Burkina Faso; and launching an ethical fashion initiative in Haiti. These are interventions that respond to the demands of the LDCs. These are part of the partnership fabric that with have with the LDCs and which we hope to deepen and expand.
For LDCs there is great potential to generate jobs and growth through SME internationalisation. For that we need to build productive capacity. We need to improve the business environment. We need to upgrade hard and soft infrastructure. But even more, we need a change of mindset and the right investments.
First, investment in human capital. This includes skills upgrading, vocational education and continuous training to ensure our men and women are active economic actors. As a Guinean saying goes, “knowledge is like a garden: if it is not cultivated, it cannot be harvested”.
Second, supporting the development of SMEs. They provide over 80% of jobs in our economies, in particular for youth and women. It is critical that government policies and international cooperation focus on these SMEs to transform them into engines of sustainable growth.
Third, there is a need to diversify the economic base of the LDC economies. We can talk about industrialisation. I prefer to talk about investing in local value addition. It is about investing in domestic agro-processing, in manufacturing and more and more in services. The services sector, starting with tourism, provides an incredible opportunity for LDCs which have a growing population- and a young population. Exploring and exploiting e-solutions through knowledge and technological transfer is also an important avenue. And as the growing app sector in Kenya, for example, illustrates, e-solutions can be home grown and transferred as well.
Taking these products and services to markets – trade - increases the potential of SMEs to drive LDC’s future development. This is why we at the ITC are passionate about empowering SMEs to internationalize.
This Conference is occurring two weeks after the Open Working Group at the United Nations agreed to a series of goals to help pave the way for a post-2015 development agenda that has growth, development and poverty eradication at its core. ITC stands ready to help Benin and all LDCs in your development aspirations.