2014 African Transformation Report

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From the preface of the 2014 African Transformation Report

By 2050 Sub-Saharan Africa will have a larger and younger workforce than China or India. With the continent’s abundant land and natural resources, that workforce can be a global competitive advantage and a great asset in driving economic transformation.

Such a transformation will come through the diversification of African economies, their rising competitiveness in world markets, and the increasing shares of manufacturing and sophisticated technology in their production. Economies will then become much more prosperous, less dependent on foreign assistance, and much more resilient to shocks—mirroring the successes of Asian and Latin American countries over the past several decades.

The impressive economic growth of many African countries since the mid-1990s—as well as the progress in governance and the turnaround in investor confidence—provides a solid foundation for transforming African economies for better jobs and shared prosperity.

This first African Transformation Report draws on our three-year research program of country, sector, and thematic studies to offer analyses and lessons that can be tailored to each country’s endowments, constraints, and opportunities. In 2010, working with local think tanks, we began to assess the transformation records, platforms, and prospects of 15 Sub-Saharan countries. Brief summaries of those studies appear in the country transformation profiles in an annex to the report. Working with African and international economists, our staff also produced cross-cutting studies of themes important to Africa’s transformation. And working with African consultants, we produced studies of sectors holding promise for adding value to Africa’s agricultural and manufactured products.

In 2011 we invited 30 leading thinkers on African development to come to Rockefeller’s conference center in Bellagio and to provide their perspectives on the challenges of economic transformation. Attending were African ministers and business leaders, academics from prominent think tanks, senior officials from multilateral development banks, and development specialists from Asia and Latin America. The workshop drew lessons from outside Africa to help us make our approach more responsive to the needs of African policymakers. It also explored possible networks for collaboration in pursuing Africa’s transformation agenda. All those taking part greatly enriched the discourse and resoundingly endorsed our work, including our plans to produce this report.

Economic transformation is now the consensus paradigm for Africa’s development. The UN’s High Level Panel on the global development agenda after 2015 sets out the priorities for transforming African’s economies for jobs and inclusive growth. The African Union’s Vision 2063 calls for integrating the continent’s economies so that they partake more in the global economy and in regional opportunities. The African Development Bank’s long-term strategy, At the Center of Africa’s Transformation, has the goal of establishing Africa as the next global emerging market. And the Economic Commission for Africa’s 2013 economic report, Making the most of Africa’s commodities: Industrializing for growth, jobs, and economic transformation, details what’s needed to promote competitiveness, reduce dependence on primary commodity exports, and emerge as a new global growth pole.

Our report’s main premise is that African economies need more than growth—if they are to transform, they need growth with DEPTH. That is, they need to Diversify their production, make their Exports competitive, increase the Productivity of farms, firms, and government offices, and upgrade the Technology they use throughout the economy—all to improve Human well-being.

A key feature of the report is ACET’s new African Transformation Index, which assesses the performance of countries on the five depth attributes of transformation and aggregates them in an overall index. It shows policymakers, business people, the media, and the public how their economies are transforming and where they stand in relation to their peers. It can thus be a starting point for national dialogues on key areas for launching transformation drives. We plan to refine the index in coming years and to expand its coverage beyond the 21 countries assessed here.

The report recognizes that transformation doesn’t happen overnight but is a long-term process. It requires constructive relationships between the state and the private sector. True, private firms will lead in the production and distribution of goods and services, in upgrading technologies and production processes, and African Transformation Report 2014 | Preface iv in expanding employment. But firms need a state that has strong capabilities in setting an overall economic vision and strategy, efficiently providing supportive infrastructure and services, maintaining a regulatory environment conducive to entrepreneurial activity, and making it easier to acquire new technology and enter new economic activities and markets.

That will require committed leadership to reach a consensus on each country’s long-term vision and strategy and to coordinate the activities of all actors in pursuing economic transformation. Our hope is that the analysis and recommendations in this report will support them in moving forward with their transformation plans, policies, and programs. Producing this report was possible only through the dedicated efforts of ACET staff, led by our Chief Economist Yaw Ansu, as well as the substantive contributions by think tanks and experts in Africa and across the globe, the constructive reviews of transformation studies and draft chapters by specialists well versed in the field, and the generous support of international foundations and development organizations that believed in our resolve to help drive the discourse on Africa’s economic transformation through growth with depth.

K.Y. Amoako
African Center for Economic Transformation

Click here to download the African Transformation Report Overview (PDF).

Click here to download the full African Transformation Report (PDF).


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