Achieving inclusive and sustainable industrialisation and the SDGs in the post-COVID-19 world

By Professor Arkebe Oqubay, Senior Minister and Special Adviser to the Prime Minister of Ethiopia

This blog is part of a series on tackling COVID-19 in developing countries. Visit the OECD dedicated page to access the OECD’s data, analysis and recommendations on the health, economic, financial and societal impacts of COVID-19 worldwide.

The 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development

In the context of international development, the year 2015 marked the transition from the Millennium Development Goals (MDGs) to the much broader 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development and the much more ambitious Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs). It signalled an emerging paradigm shift in the international development agenda, a collectively agreed set of universal goals for an inclusive and sustainable global development process.

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Impulsando la industrialización de África por medio del empuje del COVID-19

Por Toyin Abiodun, asesor de Industria y Comercio de Rwanda, Maudo Jallow, analista de Industria y Comercio de Ghana y Jonathan Said, jefe de Crecimiento Económico Inclusivo de África, Instituto Tony Blair

Este artículo es parte de una serie sobre cómo abordar COVID-19 en los países en desarrollo. Visite la página específica de la OCDE para acceder a los datos, análisis y recomendaciones de la OCDE sobre los impactos sanitarios, económicos, financieros y sociales del COVID-19 en todo el mundo.

Imagen cortesía del Instituto Tony Blair

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África importa cada año productos manufacturados por un valor neto de 232.000 millones de dólares, mientras que exporta productos básicos por un valor neto de 174.000 millones de dólares. Aunque la economía de África creció en promedio un 5,5% anual en los últimos 15 años, la industria manufacturera ha seguido siendo un aspecto estático, que sigue representando sólo el 10% del PIB.

El impacto que COVID-19 está teniendo en las cadenas mundiales de suministro y en el comercio mundial, y la inmensa presión económica que está ejerciendo sobre África -no sólo en la disponibilidad de equipos médicos, sino también de alimentos y otros bienes- indica la importancia de la industrialización del continente. Si bien COVID-19 está creando una importante crisis económica y sanitaria, también presenta una oportunidad para “coger el toro por los cuernos” y acelerar la industrialización de África. Continue reading

Repurposing Africa’s manufacturing: A means to address medical equipment shortages and spur industrialisation

 Rajkumar Mayank Singh, Tony Blair Institute (TBI) Strategic Advisor to the Government of Rwanda, Antoine Huss, Regional Lead, Francophone West Africa, TBI, Jonathan Said, Head of Inclusive Economic Growth, Africa, TBI, and Kekeli Ahiable, West Africa Analyst, TBI

This blog is part of a series on tackling COVID-19 in developing countries. Visit the OECD dedicated page to access the OECD’s data, analysis and recommendations on the health, economic, financial and societal impacts of COVID-19 worldwide.

PPE production in a repurposed factory in Ghana
Personal Protective Equipment (PPE) production in a repurposed factory in Ghana. Photo courtesy of the authors.

The World Health Organization (WHO) predicts that around 22% of Africa’s population will be infected by COVID-19 within a year, possibly resulting in 150,000 deaths. In a recent forecast by Kearney, even in a suppressed pandemic progression scenario, demand for medical gowns, gloves, masks, swabs, and hand sanitizers will surge by ~1,600 percent from the baseline. In such circumstances, weak health systems and a lack of essential medical supplies leave countries in Africa particularly vulnerable.

Governments around the world have been panic buying essential medical supplies, while the World Trade Organization recently reported eighty countries that have introduced export prohibitions restricting the global supply of medical equipment. In 2018, as depicted in figure 1, industrialised countries like the U.S.A. and Germany had the largest market share in global export of ventilators and testing kits, while China led exports of face masks globally. With African countries importing most of their medical needs, panic buying and supply chain disruptions will significantly undermine the ability of African countries – and hence the world – to defeat COVID-19. Continue reading

Driving Africa’s industrialisation on the back of COVID-19

By Toyin Abiodun, Industry and Trade Advisor, Rwanda, Maudo Jallow, Industry and Trade Analyst, Ghana and Jonathan Said, Head of Inclusive Economic Growth, Africa, Tony Blair Institute

This blog is part of a series on tackling COVID-19 in developing countries. Visit the OECD dedicated page to access the OECD’s data, analysis and recommendations on the health, economic, financial and societal impacts of COVID-19 worldwide.

Photo courtesy of the Tony Blair Institute

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Africa imports a net of $232 billion worth of manufactured goods every year, while it exports a net of $174 billion worth of raw commodities. Although Africa’s economy grew on average by 5.5% per year over the past fifteen years,  manufacturing has remained a fixed share – still accounting for only 10 per cent of GDP.

The impact COVID-19 is having on global supply chains and on global trade, and the immense economic pressure this is placing on Africa – not least in the availability of medical equipment, but also food and other goods – signals the importance of industrialising the continent. While COVID-19 is creating a major economic and health crisis, it also presents an opportunity to grab this agenda by the horns and accelerate Africa’s industrialisation.

Evidence from across the continent suggests this is possible. Many products that are imported to the continent – ranging from machinery to textiles to pharmaceuticals to processed food and medical equipment – are already produced competitively in Africa. For example, Kenya and Uganda have a thriving pharmaceutical industry, Ethiopia and Senegal have expanded their textiles industry in recent years, while Morocco and South Africa are major car producers. Continue reading

Africa: Time to Rediscover the Economics of Population Density and Development


By Professor Erik S. Reinert, Tallinn University of Technology, and Dr. Richard Itaman, King’s College, London

Learn more about this timely topic at the upcoming
18th International Economic Forum on Africa

Africa-Industrialisation-Factory.jpgAt the OECD’s origin, we find the 1947 Marshall Plan that re-industrialised a war-torn Europe. At the very core of the Marshall Plan was a profound understanding of the relationship between a nation’s economic structure and its carrying capacity in terms of population density. We argue that it is necessary to rediscover this theoretical understanding now, in the mutual interest of Africa and Europe.

In early 1947, worries grew in Washington that an impoverished Germany – where manufacturing industry had been forbidden under the Morgenthau Plan – would fall an easy prey to the Soviet Union. US President Truman therefore sent former president Herbert Hoover on a fact-finding mission to Germany. One powerful sentence in Hoover’s Report of March 18 that year zeroed in on the basic problem:

‘’There is the illusion that the New Germany left after the annexations can be reduced to a ‘pastoral state’. It cannot be done unless we exterminate or move 25.000.000 out of it’.1 

Hoover understood that the population density of a country is determined by its economic structure: Industrialisation makes it possible to dramatically increase the population carrying capacity of a nation. ‘Exterminate’ was an extremely strong word to use after the horrors of World War II, and everyone understood that there was no place where 25 million Germans could be sent: Re-industrialisation was the only option. Continue reading

Management and industrialisation in Africa

Forum Afrique2017-Visual Identity - FR-3

By Daniela Scur and Nicolas Lippolis, University of Oxford

Learn more about this timely topic at the upcoming
17th International Economic Forum on Africa
Register to attend

Africa-IndustrialisaionThe manufacturing sector has traditionally been seen as an engine for development due to its high propensity for productivity gains. Worryingly, recent evidence suggests that this has not been the case in Africa.1 One important determinant of firm productivity is the quality of management practices, and new data sheds light on the state of management in some African countries.

Management around the world

For over 12 years, the World Management Survey (WMS) has been collecting data on management practices using an interview-based methodology. It defines 18 key management practices and scores them from worst practice (1) to best practice (5). The focus is on such practices as monitoring, target-setting and incentives/people management. Research using this data suggests a strong correlation between management and a series of productivity measures – such as firm size, profitability, sales growth, market value and survival. Experimental evidence further confirms a positive correlation.2 Continue reading

Biases in entrepreneurship and industrial policy in Africa

Forum Afrique2017-Visual Identity - FR-3

By Wim Naudé, Professor in Business and Entrepreneurship in Emerging Markets, Maastricht University, Dean of the Maastricht School of Management, The Netherlands, and Research Fellow at the IZA Institute for Labor Economics, Bonn, Germany

Learn more about this timely topic at the upcoming
17th International Economic Forum on Africa
Register to attend

shutterstock_415121221.jpgAfrica has failed to industrialise. At the same time, millions of young people are seeking jobs. Put one-and-one together and the answer seems to be that if these labour market entrants become entrepreneurs in industry then they can in one stroke create jobs and help Africa industrialise. Yet, optimising the nexus between entrepreneurship and industrialisation requires overcoming some vexing policy biases. These can be categorised as biases of over-estimation and biases of under-estimation.

First, industrialisation’s job-creation potential is often over-estimated. The world is in a Fourth Industrial Revolution (4IR) driven by technologies such as the Internet of Things, automation, additive manufacturing and big data analytics (see Naudé, 2017). These technologies are causing the loss of low-skilled routine jobs, of which Africa has a disproportionate share. It’s estimated that up to 66% of all jobs in developing countries are at risk. Relatively poor African countries such as Ethiopia are at a particular risk of having around 44% of current jobs susceptible to automation. The 4IR is furthermore leading to a ‘re-shoring’ of manufacturing back to advanced economies. This is to the detriment of low-wage labor in African and other developing countries. As Culey (2012) points out: How important is low-cost labor when you don’t actually need labor?
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What’s standing in the way of South Africa’s entrepreneurs?

By Talitha Bertelsmann-Scott, Head : Economic Diplomacy Programme, and the entire Economic Diplomacy Programme team, South African Institute of International Affairs (SAIIA)

Explore the 2017 African Economic OutlookEntrepreneurship and Industrialisation in Africa for more on this subject.

Sout-Africa-EntreIndustrialisation is a key driver of sustainable development. It creates jobs, adds value and promotes trade through greater integration into global value chains. At the same time, entrepreneurship and small and medium enterprises (SMEs) are critical to every economy by creating jobs and innovative goods, promoting a competitive environment and economic growth, and facilitating income distribution. The South African government recognises the need for entrepreneurship and SMEs’ engagement with industrialisation efforts to address some of the key socio-economic challenges in the country, particularly poverty, inequality and unemployment. However, South African entrepreneurs 1 still face a number of constraints that hinder greater participation in industrialisation efforts. So, what are the roadblocks standing in the way of entrepreneurs? Continue reading

Implementing industrialisation strategies in Africa

By Dirk Willem te Velde, Director of Supporting Economic Transformation Programme and Head of International Economic Development Group, ODI

Explore this topic further with the upcoming launch of the
2017 African Economic Outlook: Entrepreneurship and Industrialisation in Africa.
Stay tuned for details


A cursory look at national and pan-Africa policy statements suggests that many African countries have a strong desire to industrialise. They have a point: manufacturing creates jobs, diffuses technology and makes the economy more resilient. Unfortunately, much analysis points to a reduction recently in the share of manufacturing as a percent of GDP on the continent, although significant progress is being made in selected countries. Real manufacturing value added has grown around 7% annually or more over 2005-2015 in Tanzania, Rwanda or Ethiopia. And few realise that real manufacturing production and exports of manufacturing doubled in sub-Saharan Africa in the decade to 2015.1

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Africa’s industrialisation: leaving no woman behind

By Li Yong, UNIDO Director General

Explore this topic further with the upcoming launch of the
2017 African Economic Outlook: Entrepreneurship and Industrialisation in Africa.
Stay tuned for details.

women-work-industry-africaAfrica must industrialise to fulfill its economic potential. To achieve the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) as part of the 2030 Agenda, we need to support Africa in accelerating its development by promoting inclusive and sustainable industrialisation.

Inclusive industrialisation means ensuring that no one is left behind, especially not women. Including women is critical, not only because gender equality is a fundamental human right, but also because it enables faster economic growth, shared prosperity and sustainable development. The 2016 Global Gender Gap report1 shows a positive correlation between gender equality and gross domestic product, economic competitiveness and human development. The economic benefits to increasing female labor force participation are real. The OECD estimates that GDP would increase by 12% if participation rates for women were to reach those of men by 2030.2 

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