“Made in Africa: Learning to compete in Industry” – Book presentation

On 22 July 2016, the IGC hosted a presentation by John Page of the new book Made in Africa: Learning to Compete in Industry. The book presented the main results of Learning to Compete (L2C), a multi-year, comparative research program jointly sponsored by the African Development Bank, the Brookings Institution, and the United Nations University World Institute for Development Economics Research (UNU-WIDER). The L2C programme tried to answer a seemingly simple but puzzling question: Why is there so little industry in Africa?

With six of the last decade’s ten fastest-growing global economies, Africa has been branded the developing world’s next “frontier market.” Yet, since 1995, growth in Africa has taken place without the changes in economic structure that normally occur as incomes per person rise. In particular Africa’s experience with industrialisation has been disappointing. Historically, industry has been a driving force behind structural change. The East Asian “Miracle” is a manufacturing success story, but sub-Saharan Africa’s average share of manufacturing in GDP has remained about 10 percent, the same as in the late 1960s.

Over the last few years, the African Development Bank, the UN Economic Commission for Africa, and the African Union have all voiced concerns with the slow pace of Africa’s industrial development, in part because the slow pace of industrialisation is responsible for the region’s disappointing performance in translating growth into good jobs and poverty reduction. Now, as commodity prices decline and global grow slows, Africa’s failure to industrialise has also raised questions about the durability of the “African Growth Miracle.”

The presentation addressed why industry matters for Africa, whether it is realistic for Africa to attempt to break into global markets in manufacturing and what policy options are available to African governments to promote industrial development. It also explored the role of Africa’s “development partners” in supporting a new agenda for industrialisation.