HARARE, Zimbabwe’s President Robert Mugabe has left for Durban to attend the World Economic Forum of Africa conference being held there from Wednesday to Friday.

The conference, which is being attended by about 1,000 government and business leaders from across the world, will focus on the challenges and prospects of the African economy, and its place in the global economy.

The continent has crafted an ambitious industrialisation agenda, anchored on its abundant natural resources, to move away from its present tricky reliance on exports of raw materials which have often left it vulnerable to commodity price swings.

Under the programme, Africa wants to process its natural resources as much as possible to be able to export only finished or semi-processed products which earn more in export markets than raw materials.

The continental agenda, championed by President Mugabe, is expected to bring several benefits to Africa, among them increasing intra-Africa trade, tackling unemployment and lifting the standards of living in addition to increased export earnings.

Africa, under the programme, is expected to fully industrialise by 2063 under a 50-year development initiative adopted by the the continent’s leaders at an African Union (AU) summit in 2013.

The recent global economic downturn, which was more acute in the developed world, only underlined Africa’s vulnerability as a commodity exporter, and the need to move away from natural resource exports. The downturn led to a slump in demand for commodities, particularly by big consumer China, which in turn led to a contraction of commodity-dependent African economies.

Although an upturn in the global economy is now on the horizon, the continent appears to have had enough of its vulnerability, and is determined to power ahead with its industrialisation agenda to lessen its dependence on commodity exports.

The Durban conference provides an opportunity for leaders, particularly from the continent, to renew their commitment to Africa’s industrialisation agenda, and share notes on progress so far achieved, and strategies.