Investment is needed in hard infrastructure to allow new industrial agenda to take off, he said. The impact of new industrial agenda was examined by presidents and corporate leaders at the World Investment Forum. The leaders observed that investment is needed in hard infrastructure like roads and broadband connections in developing countries if they are to prosper in the new digital economy and attain the Sustainable Development Goals.
But stable regulatory and fiscal regimes are a precondition of attracting such investment, agreed leaders from Lesotho, Botswana, Armenia and Central African Republic.
“The pace of innovation and technological change is altering the way in which goods and services are designed, produced, transported and consumed, globally,” UNCTAD Secretary-General Mukhisa Kituyi said. “This will have profound and far-reaching implications for trade, investment and development, especially for developing countries.”
Dr. Kituyi said that the new age of industrialization also presented significant opportunities for developing countries, especially in terms of “leapfrogging”.
“For example, in the same way that many countries bypassed fixed-line telephone networks with mobile telephony, developing countries can use new technology to bypass traditional financial systems and increase access to financial services,” he said. “Increased connectivity and artificial intelligence can also help exporters through trade facilitation and supply chain management, as well as enable small companies to internationalize.”
Mokgweetsi E.K. Masisi, President of the Republic of Botswana, said the new industrial agenda presented challenges to developing countries such as his. Governments needed to attract investment into digital infrastructure by updating their policy and regulatory regimes, he said. The so-called “demographic dividend” of an increase in the number of young Africans was an opportunity to seize concerning the new industrial agenda, he said. With the proactive involvement of multilateral institutions, President Masisi said, “the attainment of the Sustainable Development Goals is not as far-fetched as we might imagine”.
United Nations General Assembly President María Fernanda Espinosa Garcés underlined that 24 October was the annual United Nations Day, and she was happy to celebrate it in the old League of Nations building - “the home of multilateralism” - at this meeting. The United Nations and the private sector must work together to mobilize capital and channel it into activities that will enable countries to meet the targets and indicators of the 17 Sustainable Development Goals, including Goal 5 on women’s equality.
Dr Thabane agreed with other leaders that building stable regulatory regimes was a priority for their countries, and that this was a prerequisite to attracting the investment they needed. Dr. Kituyi said that the World Bank was investing just 1% of its total spending on ICT projects, and only about 4% of this limited investment was being spent on policy development, work that is critical to ensure that digital economies are well-regulated.