Africa, “Workshop of the World”: Manufacturing strategies to unleash a continent

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Africa’s share of manufacturing in GDP is less than half of the average for all developing countries. On Thursday, May 26, a panel discussion, “Africa – Workshop of the World”, was held during the African Development Bank Group’s (AfDB) Annual Meetings in Lusaka. The event, organized in collaboration with the International Growth Centre (IGC), focused on discussing avenues for adapting Africa’s manufacturing strategies to unleash the continent’s potential for accelerated industrialization.

The discussion, moderated by Daniel Makokera, from Pamuzinda Productions, focused on analyzing the key constraints to the growth of African industries and debating what type of policy options should be implemented to stimulate manufacturing, firm growth, and job creation. Among the panelists were Celestin Monga, UNIDO; Paul Collier, IGC and Oxford University; John Page, IGC and Brookings Institution; and Emmanuel Nnadozie, the Executive Secretary of the African Capacity Building Foundation (ACBD).

Page from the IGC said Africa needs to strategically link exports, geography and capabilities. He further described how such a strategic agenda for industrial development could look, by focusing on infrastructure, skills development, institutional support for foreign direct investment and special economic zones (SEZs), and mounting an “export push” by reducing the costs of entry and export.

Collier emphasized the challenge Africa is facing in sustaining its economic growth levels in a time where many of the previous catalysts for growth have disappeared. He stressed the importance of increasing the productivity and complexity of the African markets, by facilitating connectivity through infrastructure and density, in order to create jobs and sustainable growth.

The panel concluded that unleashing Africa’s competitiveness in industry requires strengthened efforts to enable reforms that actually matter for productivity and growth, such as supporting exports, building firm capabilities, increasing human capacity, and creating clusters such as SEZs. Lastly, the panel agreed that effective leadership will be crucial in building institutions that can sustain growth over the years to come.