LI Yong, Director-General of the United Nations Industrial Development Organisation (UNIDO), has affirmed that the Global Manufacturing and Industrialisation Summit (GMIS), which the organization has co-chaired for years, has been witnessing a steady development until it became the first global platform for shaping the future of the industrial sector.”
In an interview with the Emirates News Agency (WAM), Yong said, “UNIDO greatly values our bilateral cooperation with the UAE Ministry of Industry and Advanced Technology. We have co-chaired GMIS for several years and have watched it grow and evolve. Working together with the UAE Government, we are instituting Working Groups, legacy initiatives, and other projects that we are looking forward to announcing.”
On the occasion of the 4th session of the Global Manufacturing and Industrialisation Summit, which will start next week at Expo 2020 Dubai, Yong said, “Our partnership with the UAE government was consolidated by the country’s hosting of the 18th UNIDO conference, in which the UNIDO Member States adopted the Abu Dhabi Declaration in 2019.”
“This Declaration enhances our role and know-how as the UN’s Specialised Agency in industrial development, and will guide the Organisation in the years to come as it further promotes and accelerates inclusive and sustainable industrial development. We certainly look forward to strengthening our partnership with the UAE Government through its Ministry of Industry and Advance Technology,” he added.
When asked about his expectations for the future of the global manufacturing sector in light of the COVID-19 pandemic, Yong stated that manufacturing is in the midst of a rapid transition, which occurred in recent years due to the digitalization of industry (the Fourth Industrial Revolution “4IR”) and has accelerated with the onset of the COVID-19 pandemic.
“UNIDO statistics showed that after a difficult 2020, in which manufacturing output growth declined, demand has rebounded strongly, with annual output growth recovering to a healthy 18.2% by the second quarter of 2021,” he explained.
However, the recovery is somewhat uneven, with some regions growing much more quickly than others. Yong noted that the international community needs to provide the necessary support measures to restore global trust in value chains, productivity, and trade.
Regarding the industries that witnessed rapid growth as a result of the pandemic, he said that high technology sectors, such as computing, electronics, electrical equipment, pharmaceuticals, and motor vehicles, all saw surges in demand amidst the pandemic, and thus did not see the slump in demand that affected some more traditional sectors, such as hospitality, wood products, textiles and food products.
UNIDO Director-General added, “High technology sectors found it much easier to pivot to digital platforms and production than more traditional manufacturing sectors and were thus less impacted by public health restrictions and supply chain disruptions. However, these may also be negatively impacted by the global shortage of computer chips and semiconductors in future.”
When asked about the latest opportunities and trends that have emerged due to, the pandemic, Yong said that the pandemic had accelerated a trend visible in the years before the digitalization of manufacturing. “We have seen a mass migration to the digital space to enable industrial productivity and working life. However, within this, Small and Medium Enterprises, women and young people are at risk of marginalization, as are developing countries.”
He continued, “We have also seen how vital manufacturing has been to the international recovery effort, through the production of personal protective equipment, laboratory equipment, sanitizer, etc., and also how advanced technology can be harnessed for identification of infected persons, contact tracing, distribution of medicine and supplies inter alia.”
“We have an opportunity to enhance industrial resilience and recovery worldwide as a result of COVID-19, building back better, preventing future disruptions and addressing the digital divide. But we need to grasp the nettle through harnessing manufacturing for innovation in global health industries, in particular.”
On how can emerging economies and nascent industries take advantage of these new growth opportunities and the Fourth Industrial Revolution to drive growth, he stated, “There is no ‘silver bullet’ solution.”
“We need to upscale capacities in emerging economies across a variety of fields: improving access to technology and building digital capabilities; upscaling industrial policymaking; building partnerships and a conducive investment environment; enhancing innovation ecosystems and quality infrastructure; and addressing inputs such as training, education and upskilling.”
UNIDO, he said, is cooperating closely with Member States to develop a policy framework that will help address these drivers of advanced industrialisation, and to assist them in their transitions to the 4IR.
Regarding the importance for countries to collaborate to unlock growth opportunities in the post-pandemic world, he said that international cooperation is vital for achieving inclusive and sustainable industrialization, as per Goal 9 of the 2030 Agenda. Before the pandemic, manufacturing value-added and international trade were already impacted globally due to bilateral tensions, barriers to trade, protectionism, and economic nationalism.
Yong added, “We will only fully recover from COVID-19 when developing countries have the opportunity to return to conventional levels of economic activity and to access the vaccine stocks necessary to make manufacturing and trade safe.”
When asked about the role of cross-sectoral collaboration in advancing the manufacturing sector, the Director-General noted that multi-stakeholder partnerships are a crucial enabler of advanced manufacturing.
The Fourth Industrial Revolution is such a rapid and vast paradigm, with overspills to so many facets of society: no one actor can master it acting alone, he said.
Yong added, “We need governments to establish the right regulatory frameworks; the private sector to dynamize innovation; academia to provide the research base, and civil society to act as a watchdog for social and environmental inclusion. As such, for development to be impactful and effective, and in particular for us to achieve inclusive and sustainable industrial development, multi-stakeholder initiatives, such as GMIS, are necessary and essential.
Regarding how the 4IR is transforming the innovation landscape in low-income and developing economies, he said that the global landscape for advanced digital production technologies is regrettably lopsided.
Yong explained that the UNIDO Industrial Development Report 2020 found that just ten economies (mainly in the Global North) account for over 90% of advanced innovation patents and some 70 percent of associated exports. Meanwhile, 88 economies (mainly in the Global South) play little or no role as either consumers or producers in this sector.
Addressing the digital divide requires a long-term policy framework, addressing factors such as industrial capacities, digital infrastructure; the investment climate; national skills endowments and training opportunities; innovation ecosystems; educational systems and curricula; quality infrastructure and standards, he elaborated.
It also requires a concerted effort of the entire international community to play their part – emphasizing again the importance and need for more effective multi-stakeholder partnerships.
When asked how industrial economies can contribute to achieving Sustainable Development Goals, Industrial economies have a special role, principally through providing enlightened leadership. They can catalyze a genuinely global recovery by distributing surplus vaccines; taking measures to address climate change; ensuring adequate resource streams for development; and enabling a rules-based international order allowing the “right to development” for all, particularly for developing countries.
Critically, in terms of the Fourth Industrial Revolution, they can play their part in enabling technology transfer, sharing of knowledge and enhancement of digital infrastructure globally.
The Director-General concluded by saying that UNIDO is currently rolling out a series of advanced technology pilots in Member States, to improve access to 4IR and address inclusive and sustainable industrial development, as per our mandate.
“UNIDO has deployed satellite imaging to combat invasive species in food value chains in Namibia. In Kenya, we harnessed the Internet of Things to improve geothermal energy supplies. In Colombia, we used digital twinning to optimize specialization in the automotive value chain. In Belarus, we have established a smart manufacturing pilot center, while in Morocco, we are developing smart factories. In Indonesia, we have utilized smart sensors for traceability in fishery value chains.
“We know that we must go further in systematizing these interventions, which is why we are preparing and will be releasing a 4IR strategic framework for the consideration of UNIDO Member States.”
Take a look here at the features of the fourth industrial revolution: the internet of things, circular economy, and blockchain.