Industries without smokestacks: Firm characteristics and constraints to growth

Foreign tourists in safari riverboats observe elephants along the Chobe river bank near Botswana's northern border where Zimbabwe, Zambia and Namibia meet, March 4, 2005. REUTERS/Peter Apps/File Photo

Structural change is taking place in Africa, but—in contrast with East Asia—export-led manufacturing is playing a minor role. Falling transport costs and progress in information and communications technology have, at the same time, created tradable services and agribusinesses that share firm characteristics with manufacturing. This paper reviews firm characteristics in major IWOSS industries and proposes an approach to identify country-level constraints to their growth.

A review of current literature finds that four major industries without smokestacks—agroindustry and horticulture, tourism, ICT-based business services and transport and logistics—have many firm characteristics in common with manufacturing. There is evidence of the capacity for learning and productivity growth, and scale and agglomeration economies are important firm characteristics.

Four drivers of industrial location have largely shaped the global distribution of industry—with and without smokestacks. These are the “investment climate,” exports, agglomeration, and firm capabilities. Addressing these four drivers of industrial location can support a strategy for structural change that encompasses both manufacturing and IWOSS.

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