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30 Years of economics for development

Learning to Compete (L2C): Accelerating Industrial Development in Africa

Project name/title
Learning to Compete (L2C): Accelerating Industrial Development in Africa
Learning to Compete seeks to answer a seemingly simple but puzzling question: why is there so little industry in Africa? Industry—including modern services and agro-industry—is often the key to job creation, poverty reduction, and growth. Most Asian economies began their industrialization processes with initial conditions quite similar to many African countries today, yet, while Asia had explosive industrial growth, Africa’s shares of global manufacturing value added and exports have fallen. To sustain growth Africa must learn to compete in global markets.
trade, competitiveness, industrial policy, productivity, Africa, growth, employment

Collaborating Institution(s):
The Brookings Institution, Washington DC, USA

The African Development Bank, Tunis, Tunisia

External Project Director:
John Page, (The Brookings Institution)

UNU-WIDER focal point:
Finn Tarp, Director of UNU-WIDER
Annett Victorero, Communications focal point

Project Assistant:
Lisa Winkler

L2C – Learning to compete: Accelerating Industrial Development in Africa
For complete information on this project.
Project Meetings

24-25 June 2013  UNU-WIDER Conference on Learning to Compete: Industrial Development and Policy in Africa, Helsinki, Finland


Building on recent academic work on structural change and industrialization, the project will undertake analysis of firm level data and country case studies for seven countries in Africa and two in East Asia to address five key questions of immediate relevance for development policy:

  • What is the role of exports in industrialization?
  • Will lack of skills constrain Africa’s ability to compete?
  • Can industrial clusters boost competitiveness?
  • Can foreign direct investment build Africa’s industrial capability?
  • How can governments improve communication and coordination with the private sector?

Detailed country-level quantitative and qualitative research on the five industrial policy questions set out above, together with analysis of each country’s industrialization process and policy framework will provide a rich comparative body of research on industrialization in Africa, a more detailed understanding of the industrial development challenges faced by each economy studied, and some new insights into policy options at both the national and global level.

Further reading:

Journal of African Economies (2012) 21

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