This book presents the results of a comparative, country-based research programme entitled Learning to Compete (L2C)—led collaboratively by the African Development Bank, the Brookings Institution, and UNU-WIDER—that sought to answer a seemingly simple but puzzling question: why is there so little industry in Africa? It brings together the results of eleven detailed country case studies—eight from sub-Saharan Africa (SSA), one from North Africa, and two from newly industrializing East Asia—conducted by teams of national researchers in partnership with international experts on industrial development; and provides the most comprehensive description and analysis available to date of the contemporary industrialization experience in low-income Africa. It also compares the SSA industrial development story with the more successful industrial development experiences of Tunisia, Cambodia, and Vietnam.
The editors’ Introduction—‘The Pursuit of Industry: Policies and Outcomes’—describes the motivation for the book and explores some of the cross-cutting themes that emerge from the individual case studies; while the concluding chapter sets out the implications of the country cases for policy. Africa’s failure to industrialize is partly due to bad luck. After a brief period of post-independence state-led import substitution (IS) the macroeconomic chaos and subsequent reforms of the ‘structural adjustment’ period brought more than twenty years of low growth and low investment. By 2000, as African governments began to focus again on industrial development, Africa was not simply competing with the industrial ‘North’—it was competing with China. But the failure to industrialize is due also to bad policy. This book shows a remarkable similarity in the policies for industrial development followed by the eight SSA countries: state-led IS, structural adjustment, and reform of the investment climate. The latter two of these policy regimes strongly reflect the priorities and dogmas of the aid community. It is fair to conclude that none has succeeded in sparking dynamic industrial growth. This book demonstrates how this state of affairs can start changing and what is required to make that happen.
I hereby sincerely express my appreciation and admiration of the academic and analytical skills of the L2C team and the detailed knowledge of the case countries brought out so clearly in this volume.