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Senior Policy Seminar on Industrialization in Africa

The African Economic Research Consortium’s (AERC) Senior Policy Seminar XIX (SPS) on the theme “Industrialization in Africa” that was held in Abidjan, Cote d’Ivoire on March 13-14, 2017was a great success. The conference, which was officially opened by Jean-Claude Brou, Minister for Industrialization and Mines, Cote d’Ivoire was a timely opportunity to explore policy options for accelerating the pace of industrialization on the continent. The seminar drew on research by the AERC network, and on a multi-year research programme involving many AERC affiliates. It was jointly sponsored by the African Development Bank (AfDB), the Brookings Institution, and the United Nations University World Institute for Development Economics Research (UNU-WIDER).

The contributions in this meeting really enhanced the understanding of ingredients for accelerated industrialization toward African economic transformation. Records show that Africa has really underperformed in terms of industrialization. Today, the share of manufacturing in Gross Domestic Product (GDP) is about what it was in the 1970s; less than one-half of the average for all developing countries. And in contrast with developing countries as a whole, it is declining. Many of the region’s recent growth success stories—Ethiopia, Ghana, Kenya, Tanzania, and Uganda, for example—have shares of manufacturing in GDP that are well below their predicted values.

AERC senior policy seminars are forums designed specifically to bring together senior policy makers from sub-Saharan African countries to exchange experiences and deliberate on topical issues pertaining to sustainable development of their economies. Participants in these seminars are drawn from the highest levels of government, including the presidency, ministers, governors of central banks, heads of civil services, permanent secretaries and heads of government agencies and parastatals.


Africa has no choice but industrialize. Simultaneously it has no choice, but integrate in its quest for inclusive and sustainable growth. There are positive upswings, though. A strong and positive growth trajectory, rapid urbanization, more stable and improving economic and political environments have opened a window of opportunity for Africa to achieve economic transformation through industrialization and regional integration. And this specific senior policy seminar on industrialization in Africa provides a timely forum for dialogue on the subject between senior policy makers, academic thought leaders, private sector actors, and among policy makers themselves. This debate will be conducted in the best of AERC’s traditions guided by rigour and evidence,” said Professor Lemma W. Senbet, Executive Director of AERC on the eve of the conference.   


Leading researchers and thought leaders shared their ideas with distinguished senior policy makers in various sessions. The first session was devoted to a presentation by Prof. Finn Tarp of the UNU-WIDER, Finland, titled “Industrialization in Africa: Setting the Stage & Overview”The second session featured Prof. Carol Newman, Trinity College, Ireland, who presented a paper on “Industrial Clusters: The Case for Special Economic Zones in Africa”. Dr. Eyerusalem Siba, Brookings Institutions, Washington D.C did the last presentation of the day on “Learning to Export and Learning by Exporting”.  


The first session of the second day was a presentation by Prof. Judith Fessehaie, University of Johannesburg, South Africa on “Regional Industrialization in Africa”and the second session featured “Financing Industrial Development: Lessons from other Regions” byProf. Keun Lee, Seoul National University, Korea. Third session was on “AfDB’s Industrial Strategy” and the presenter was Dr. Ludovic Alcorta, United Nations Industrial Development Organization(UNIDO).


The lead discussants for these papers were, respectively, Prof. Aly Mbaye, CREA/UCAD, Senegal; Dr.Adam Mugume, Bank of Uganda; andDr. Nii Sowa, International Growth Centre, Ghana. Session chairs were Pierre Guislain, AfDB; Dr. Kheswar Jankee, Mauritian Ambassador to Germany; Prof.Monty Jones, Minister of Agriculture, Sierra Leone; Dr. Louis Kasekende, Deputy Governor, Bank of Uganda; andDr. Frannie Leautier, Senior Vice President, AfDB. There were floor discussions by participants after each presentation. The closing session of the conference was a policy roundtable on Industrialization in Africa. This roundtable was chaired and moderated by Dr. Bright E. Okogu, Executive Director, AfDB.


About AERC

African Economic Research Consortium (AERC), established in 1988, is a premier capacity building institution in the advancement of research and training to inform economic policies in sub-Saharan Africa. It is one of the most active Research and Capacity Building Institutions (RCBIs) in the world with a focus on Africa. AERC’s mission rests on two premises: First, that development is more likely to occur where there is sustained sound management of the economy. Second, that such management is more likely to happen where there is an active, well-informed cadre of locally-based professional economists to conduct policy-relevant research. AERC builds that cadre through a programme that has three primary components: research, training and policy outreach. The organization has now emerged as a premier capacity building network institution integrating high quality economic policy research, postgraduate training and policy outreach within a vast network of researchers, universities and policy makers across Africa and beyond. AERC has increasingly received global acclaim for its quality products and services, and is ranked highly among global development think tanks.

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For more information about this workshop or AERC, please contact:

The Executive Director
African Economic Research Consortium (AERC)
Middle East Bank Towers, 3rd Floor, Jakaya Kikwete Road,
Tel: (+254-20) 273-4150 / 273-4157
Fax: (+254-20) 273-4173
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