People participate in the 48-hour 'hackathon' event  ISSOUF SANOGO/AFP/Getty Images

Africa’s Alternative Path to Development

Stalled manufacturing growth across Sub-Saharan Africa has worried many development experts that the region has lost the opportunity to emulate East Asia's economic trajectory. But the region's burgeoning service sectors suggest that another, equally powerful development model is available.

WASHINGTON, DC – Recent projections indicate that several Sub-Saharan African countries will experience robust economic growth over the next five years. By 2023, around one-third of the region’s economies will have grown at an average annual rate of 5% or higher since 2000.

And yet, as The Economist observed last year, Africa’s development model “puzzles economists.” After all, only four of the continent’s high-growth countries are natural-resource dependent. Nor is overall performance due primarily to industrialization, as traditional development models would have predicted. What, then, explains the strong economic performance?

New research by the Brookings Institution’s Africa Growth Initiative and the United Nations University World Institute for Development Economics Research (UNU-WIDER) might hold the key to answering that question. According to the forthcoming book Industries Without Smokestacks: Industrialization in Africa Reconsidered, there is evidence to suggest that Sub-Saharan Africa is undergoing a more profound structural transformation than we think.