Industrialisation in Africa: Between beautiful dreams and dreadful obstacles ~ by Chofor Che


The 6th annual joint conference of ministers of finance of the African Union and the conference for African Ministers of Finance, Programming and Economic Development of the Economic Commission of Africa, took place in Abidjan, Ivory Coast in late March 2013. According to a report dated the 25 March 2013   by Jeanine Fankam, Cameroon Tribune’s special envoy to Abidjan, the theme of the two day conference focused on the importance of industrialisation for an economic emerging Africa.

This conference which was also attended by high ranking members of international organisations like the United Nations (UN), The African Development Bank (ADB) as well as central banks was aimed at seeing how African states could put in place strategies to revamp the industrial sector so as to reduce reliance on always importing products from the West and Asia.

In the auditorium of Hotel Ivoire, President Alassane Ouattara made mention of efforts towards industrialisation in Africa since independence. According to Cameroon Tribune, some progress has been made in boosting the industrial sector in Africa, but much still has to be done.

From all indications, African products need to be more competitive in the international market. At the moment, the slow industrialisation rate has made African products less competitive on the international scene.

Abdallah Msa of the Department of Economic Affairs of the AU says there are serious obstacles to industrialisation in Africa, especially financing. Africa still depends greatly for financing from the Western financial institutions like the World Bank and the ADB. Relying on financial organisations to revamp the industrial sector in Africa will definitely handicap this ambition.

Another problem which plagues the industrialisation sector are the numerous economic barriers that exist on the African continent, between states and sub-regional groups like the Economic Community of West African states (ECOWAS) and the Economic Community of Central African States (ECCAS). How can there be industrialisation when people and goods cannot circulate freely on the continent without barriers?

There also remain serious concerns about security on the continent. Countries like the Central African Republic was recently plunged into a coup d’Etat. There is definitely no way a state like Central African Republic, which has so far had six coup d’Etats, can be advanced in the industrial sector with such insecurity. Countries in the Gulf of Guinea like Cameroon and Nigeria are also plagued by attacks from kidnappers and pirates.  This remains a big blow in the face of industrialisation in Africa.

Concerning internal problems in African states, the central governments in Africa remain reticent to improve on the private sector. It is via a vibrant private sector in the continent that the continent of Africa can be industrialised.

Some states like Ghana and Nigeria have beautiful legislation when it comes to industrialisation, but state actors who are called upon to implement these legislative provisions remain reluctant to see the industrialisation dream on the continent come through.

Having these conferences on the continent is a waste of time and tax payers’ money if serious action is not taken. By now the continent should have been very advanced with respect to industrialisation but this is not the case.

It is thus important for African states to curb barriers like economic barriers and corruption. It is also important for African states to revamp the private sector, because this definitely is the gateway to industrialisation. A continent with a weak private sector and many security concerns cannot advance in the industrialisation era.

Chofor Che is an associate of and an integral part of the Voice of Liberty initiative. He is also a Doctoral Law candidate at the University of the Western Cape and blogs at

African development and next steps