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The Reasons For The Failed Industrialization Of Africa

At no point in recent history have calls for Africa to industrialize been stronger than they have been lately. Across the continent, industrialization is arguably the most talked about subject among policymakers. So why has action on the ground failed to move the needle on this important development marker?

Industrialization has been a campaign promise across the African continent, with its acknowledged ability to bring prosperity, new jobs and better incomes for all. Yet the continent is less industrialized today than it was four decades ago. Yes, you heard that right.

In the 70s and 80s Africa was more industrialized than it is today. Africa’s manufacturing sector contribution to its GDP in the 80s was 15% compared to today’s 10%. Africa contributed 4% of global manufacturing output in the 1970s, but this percentage has since reduced to less than 1%. So why has Africa failed to industrialize?

DON’T MAKE DONORS UNHAPPY One of the main reasons for Africa’s slow industrialization is that its leaders have failed to pursue bold economic policies out of fear of antagonizing donors. Almost 60 years after independence most African countries still ship raw materials that is usually underpriced to processing factories in Europe before final products are shipped back at a higher price.

There is no single coffee processing plant in Kenya, Ethiopia or Uganda where most African coffee comes from. The same countries export coffee beans to the UK for processing and later import expensive processed coffee from Europe. Today, Ghana and Ivory Coast have not yet figured out how to process cocoa beans and make chocolates.

The truth of the matter is that their respective leaders avoid pursuing policies that would add value to their cash crops for fear of angering their donor countries. Africa is so hooked to donor funds to a point that such low capital factories like coffee mills cannot be installed in those countries.



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