Lessons learned from structural transformation in least developed countries

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By Daniel Gay[1], Inter-Regional Adviser on LDCs, UN Department of Economic and Social Affairs

To learn more about countries’ strategies for economic transformation, including a session on Least Developed Countries (LDCs), follow the 10th Plenary and High-Level Meeting of the OECD Initiative for Policy Dialogue on Global Value Chains, Production Transformation and Development in Paris, France on 27-28 June 2018 

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Bangladeshi garments workers in Dhaka, Bangladesh. Photo: Shutterstock.com

At Leather Wings, a small shoe-making outfit based in central Kathmandu, four women sit in a small room cutting up bright red cowhide imported from India. Next door, a dozen of their colleagues stitch the shapes together on sewing machines. The owner Samrat Dahal says the boots, designed by a German expat, sell via the Internet in India, China and Italy.

The company, founded in 1985, sums up some of the issues facing the Nepalese economy: entrepreneurial leaders at the helm of a committed workforce making a competitive and quality product for which overseas demand is ample. The problem isn’t finding buyers; it’s scaling up production to meet that demand. Exports by the handful of players in Nepal’s shoe industry totalled only USD 23 million in 2015. The task of boosting production in Nepal is doubly pressing given that the country already meets the criteria to graduate from the least developed country (LDC) category, something that the government wants to happen as soon as 2022. Nepal’s productive capacity predicament is typical of many LDCs. Moving onto a path of long-term prosperity requires structural transformation that expands production via manufacturing, services and higher-productivity agriculture.

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