It finds that, despite some improvements in a few countries, the bulk of African countries are either stagnating or moving backwards when it comes to industrialization. The share of MVA in Africa's GDP fell from 12.8 percent in 2000 to 10.5 percent in 2008, while in developing Asia it rose from 22 percent to 35 percent over the same period. There has also been a decline in the importance of manufacturing in Africa's exports, with the share of manufactures in Africa's total exports having fallen from 43 percent in 2000 to 39 percent in 2008. In terms of manufacturing growth, while most have stagnated, 23 African countries had negative MVA per capita growth during the period 1990 - 2010, and only five countries achieved an MVA per capita growth above 4 percent.
The report also finds that Africa remains marginal in global manufacturing trade. Its share of global MVA has actually fallen from an already paltry 1.2 percent in 2000 to 1.1 percent in 2008, while developing Asia's share rose from 13 percent to 25 percent over the same period. In terms of exports, Africa's share of global manufacturing exports rose from 1 percent in 2000 to only 1.3 percent in 2008. Africa is also losing ground in labor-intensive manufacturing: Its share of low-technology manufacturing activities in MVA fell from 23 percent in 2000 to 20 percent in 2008, and the share of low-technology manufacturing exports in Africa's total manufacturing exports dropped from 25 percent in 2000 to 18 percent in 2008. Finally, Africa remains heavily dependent on natural resources-based manufacturing, which is an indication of both its low level of economic diversification and low level of technological sophistication in production. The share of resource-based manufactures in Africa's total manufacturing exports declined only slightly in recent years, from 52 percent in 2000 to 49 percent by 2008. In East Asia and the Pacific, the number dropped to as low as 13 percent by 2008.
Such statistics and comparisons with East Asia are, of course, completely at odds with the "Africa rising" narrative.
A recent report by the African Development Bank, makes a similar point. "Africa's growth tends to be concentrated on a limited range of commodities and the extractive industries," the report states. "These sectors are not generating the employment opportunities that would allow the majority of the population to share in the benefits. This is in marked contrast to the Asian experience, where the growth of labor-intensive manufacturing has helped lift millions of people out of poverty..." The report goes on to note that "[p]romoting inclusive growth means... broadening the economic base beyond the extractive industries and a handful of primary commodities."
This point was also not lost on recent Ghanaian presidential candidate, Nana Akufo-Addo, who warned: "About 30 years ago, some African nations, beginning with Ghana and Uganda, implemented liberal economic reforms to stop their economic decline. But in many cases we opened our markets to global competition when, beyond the extractive industries, we had nothing to compete with. So while the continent's share of global foreign direct investment projects has improved steadily over the past decade, much of this investment has reinforced the structural deficits of our economies."
Today many African countries need to use industrial policies, such as temporary trade protection, subsidized credit, and publically supported R&D with technology and innovation policies, if they are ever to get their manufacturing sectors off the ground. This is true for all the same reasons that it was true for the U.K. and other nations that have industrialized successfully. According to today's ideology of free trade and free markets, however, many of these key policies are condemned as "bad government intervention." Bilateral and multilateral aid donors advise against them (and structure loan conditions accordingly). WTO agreements and new regional free trade agreements (FTAs), as well as bilateral investment treaties (BITs) between rich and poor countries, frequently outlaw them.
Critics of industrial policies are correct to cite some historical cases where industrial policies have misfired in developing countries. But these critics are often selective in their criticisms, ignoring successful cases and neglecting to explain why industrial policies worked so well in the United States, Europe and East Asia while failing so badly in Africa and elsewhere.