Hoe Afrika aan zijn armoede kan ontsnappen

PEKING – Alle lagelonenlanden hebben potentieel voor dynamische economische groei. We weten dit omdat we dit al vaker hebben zien gebeuren: een arme agrarische economie die zichzelf in een of twee generaties in een stedelijke economie met midden- tot zelfs hoge inkomens transformeert. De sleutel hiertoe is om het venster richting industrialisering te benutten dat door de relocatie van lichte industrieën uit landen met hogere lonen geopend wordt. Dit was in de negentiende en twintigste eeuw het geval, en geldt nog steeds.

Japan pakte de kans om zijn economie in de jaren na de Tweede Wereldoorlog aan te jagen door middel van arbeidsintensieve industrieën zoals textiel en eenvoudige elektronica, totdat de arbeidskosten zijn comparatieve voordeel in die sectoren erodeerde. Deze verschuiving zorgde er vervolgens voor dat andere Aziatische economieën (Zuid-Korea, Taiwan, Hong Kong, Singapore en tot op zekere hoogte Maleisië en Thailand) in de voetsporen van Japan konden treden.

China is, zoals iedereen weet, de meeste recente reiziger uit deze regio die dit veelvuldig gevolgde pad heeft betreden. Na meer dan dertig jaar van ongebreidelde economische groei heeft het zichzelf getransformeerd van één van de armste landen op aarde naar ’s werelds grootste economie. En nu ook China zijn comparatieve voordeel in de arbeidsintensieve industrie begint te verliezen staan andere ontwikkelingslanden – vooral in Afrika – in de rij om zijn plaats in te nemen.

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