Africa’s Manufacturing Malaise

The levels of poverty and inequality in Africa are high in relation to the rest of the world. In order to reduce these twin ailments, more and better jobs need to be created. A key source of more and better jobs for developing countries is to be found in the manufacturing sector. Structural transformation involves the shift of productive resources from low productivity primary activities toward high productivity manufacturing activities. Therefore, understanding the constraints that countries face when trying to structurally transform and develop their manufacturing sector is important. In order to analyse the constraints to manufacturing growth, particularly in African countries, we employ the Atlas of Economic Complexity analytical framework developed by Hausmann & Hidalgo (2011). The analysis shows that, in general, African countries have not undergone manufacturing-led growth-inducing structural transformation. However, Africa is not one country, and the analysis demonstrates heterogeneity in the African experience, with some African countries exhibiting growth in their manufacturing sectors. The analysis indicates that the process of structural transformation is a path-dependent one, in which a country’s current productive capabilities embodied in its export structure, influence the extent to which it can shift production toward increased manufacturing activity. We argue that, with regard to manufacturing sector growth in Africa, there is no policy ‘silver bullet’. Rather, subsequent analysis needs to determine the specific productive capabilities required by manufacturing firms in African countries on a case-by-case basis.

Issue Date:
Jan 01 2016
Publication Type:
Working or Discussion Paper
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 Record created 2018-02-03, last modified 2020-10-28

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