Since 1995, Africa’s explosive economic growth has taken place without the changes in economic structure that normally occur as incomes per person rise. In particular, Africa’s experience with industrialization has been disappointing, especially as, historically, industry has been a driving force behind structural change.
In order to address this phenomenon, on April 12, 2016, experts on structural transformation in Africa explored the potential for and obstacles to industrialization on the continent. As part of the launch of the new book, Made in Africa: Learning to Compete in Industry, panelists discussed whether it is realistic for Africa to attempt to break into global markets in manufacturing, the role of agriculture in structural transformation, and policy options available to African governments to promote industrial development. The discussion was largely positive, as panelist Margaret McMillian, professor of economics at Tufts University and research associate at the National Bureau of Economic Research, optimistically argued during the event: “African manufacturing is on an upswing.”
Governor Benno J. Ndulu of the Central Bank of Tanzania began the discussion by countering the increasing pessimism around the “Africa Rising” narrative, reminding the panel and audience that Africa’s growth has not completely been based on commodities and that structural transformation is still vital for continuing growth. Watch:
Kapil Kapoor, acting vice president for sector operations and director of strategy and operational policy at the African Development Bank, agreed with Governor Ndulu and emphasized the need for industrialization in Africa. He noted the challenges and pressing necessity of creating jobs on the continent: 11 million more well-paid, productive jobs are needed each year. Right now only 3 million are created each year. Besides jobs, though, he reviewed the African Development Bank’s new approach to addressing structural challenges such as energy and infrastructure too. Watch:
Finn Tarp, director of the United Nations University World Institute for Development Economics Research and a professor of economics at the University of Copenhagen, noted that, despite long-running support and energy for industrialization in the continent, it has, in fact, deindustrialized. Bad policy, he said, along with bad luck, had led the region to where it is today. In looking forward, though, he was positive, stating one of the major themes of Made in Africa: Reforms to the sector cannot be piecemeal. Watch:
Africa is the world's breadbasket—or should be. It has vast arable land, grows a wide variety of crops and has vast irrigation potential with seven major rivers. Yet, Africa imported $43 billion worth of food items in 2019. Digital technologies ... are eliminating the traditional inefficiencies of smallholder food production and helping to close the yield gap.