The Paradox of Development and Industrialization – Pinado Abdu Waba


Cynics say the word “industrialization” is somewhat alien to Africa, but that is fine, if the theory they rely on was propounded based on the name rather than what it actually means, because I also think that the name is a mouthful. In a more hilarious assessment though, some even say that industrialization should be described more as “development” whenever this “concept” is referred to in the African context, owing to the slow paced growth witnessed in extracting and processing the raw materials that flourish in almost every nook and cranny of the continent, as well as the muddled up approach that exists in the system, when trying to invest the proceeds domestically, as it is often shrouded in corruption.


I’d like to think that everything happens in stages, I even think the cynics offered their judgment without even considering countries such as South Africa as well as the Arab countries in the North of Africa which are much more advanced on the topic of industrialization.


Recent economic discourses have often described the continent of Africa as the land of opportunity and a coveted haven for investors, but in the same vein challenges such as corruption, terrorist activities and unfavorable government policies have been cited as the major setbacks, really? These elements were never a threat in the 16th century, as historians have shown how mineral resources were extracted and exported quite easily. So the existence of these new obstacles and the challenge of getting past them is another theme entirely.


I dare say that it is indeed true that Africa is ripe and ready to be patronized by investors; one even dares to fantasize certain lavishness at the sound of this prospect, but what kind of investment is the way out? Why is that? And most importantly, who is investing in what?


A lot of African countries require investment but as we ponder on it, this write-up seeks to emphasize the importance of the development of human capital rather than spending huge sums of money on cumbersome technological processes that cannot be sustained because of the possible lack of unskilled labour.


Economists say that industrialized countries use their ideas to create new innovations which they translate into technology to make things easier and comfortable, but from a more humble perspective, I think the diversified and heterogeneous nature of Africa will have more advantages if the grassroot is aided to largely fend for itself since they are often perceived to have the majority of the problems that bring about setbacks.


Experience has shown that this can largely be achieved by providing an enabling environment where infant indigenous companies can thrive, irrespective of what they produce as long as it satisfies the basic needs of the people. African governments must look to open up their markets for investment while looking to ensure their economies focus on the industries for which they have a telling comparative advantage. Small producers and local farmers are critical to these development strategies.


In this era that is troubled by adverse climatic conditions, it is also imperative that as nations and individuals, more attention is given to the protection of the environment because the people in the grassroots especially depend solely on nature for a large part of their three square meals. So by and large, if the institutions responsible fail and there is only an epileptic private sector to turn to, nature should be at least made reliable.


That notwithstanding though, the thing about the terms in question is that many describe industrialization as if it were a magic wand; it is described in a manner that depicts “returns” or wealth creation at its best, forgetting that even the so called industrialized nations have their own troubles. Industrialization requires heavy investment, which to me seems to be the disconnect in the African journey to this destination, and I attribute it to the want of immediate results rather than a slow paced sustainable growth


Since investment is perceived is as key to industrialization as well as development especially at a time of dwindling resources, high rise in inflation rates and a large “chunk” of unemployed, it is better to tow the angle that as countries develop from one level to another, the social and economic advancement that takes place demands the existence of certain types of knowledge to sustain it as such rather than making money the major goal, ideas and human development should be top on the to do list if anything “worthy” is to be achieved


Indeed, what is more desirable is a flourishing private sector such that the economy can be free, but for freedom to succeed, governments must provide policies and institutions that will provide the desired atmosphere especially for those at the grassroots level who have ideas but lack the benefit of technology and infrastructure.


Pinado Abdu Waba is Journalist, she has a B.Sc. in Mass Communication and she writes on you can also follow her on her twitter handle @adamapina                  

Pinado Abdu Waba makes African Liberty debut with her perspectives of development