Addis Aba CHinese investment v2 Eric Lafforgue/Getty Images

Achieving an African Industrial Revolution

After decades in the slow lane, Africa's economy has had its foot on the accelerator, with impressive growth since the mid-2000s solidifying its potential as the global economy's next new growth engine. But sustaining rapid development will take work – and help from countries like China and Italy.

BEIJING – In the mid-2000s, after decades in the slow lane, African economies hit the accelerator. But what lies ahead for the continent is not an open highway. If Africa is to achieve its potential as the next emerging-market engine of global economic growth, it will have to industrialize.

Economists agree that, since the first Industrial Revolution, the rise of labor-intensive light manufacturing (textiles, garments, shoes, and associated tools and machinery) has played a major role in pushing up national incomes. But Africa has not managed to take part fully in industrialization, a failure that has caused it to lag behind the rest of the developing world since the 1970s. In 2015, all of Sub-Saharan Africa exported only as much apparel as tiny El Salvador.

Africa desperately needs an industrial revolution if it is to create jobs for its fast-growing youth population and reduce migration pressure. Some of the building blocks are well known: effective and reliable governance institutions, modern infrastructure, and education. What is less clear is who should play what role in supplying them.

To continue reading, please log in or enter your email address.

To read this article from our archive, please log in or register now. After entering your email, you'll have access to two free articles every month. For unlimited access to Project Syndicate, subscribe now.

required

By proceeding, you agree to our Terms of Service and Privacy Policy, which describes the personal data we collect and how we use it.

Log in

http://prosyn.org/cDtW6hM;

Cookies and Privacy

We use cookies to improve your experience on our website. To find out more, read our updated cookie policy and privacy policy.