Lessons from the 2014 joint UN/AU Economic Report on Africa – By Chofor Che


The 2014 Economic Report on Africa (the 2014 Report) was launched in Yaoundé on the 17 July 2014under the patronage of Cameroon’s Minister of the Economy, Planning and Regional Development. Present at this launch were top ranking civil servants, economists, private sector actors, academics and members of the international community interested in investing in Africa in general and in Cameroon in particular. The report, published by the African Union Commission (AUC) and the United Nations Economic Commission for Africa (ECA) focuses on various case studies of states across the African continent, especially Africa’s failure to become adequately industrialized.

The 2014 Report is entitled ‘Dynamic Industrial Policy in Africa: Innovative Institutions, Effective Processes and Flexible Mechanisms.’  According to ECA, the title is a rational addition of the ideas propounded in past editions especially that of 2011 on the part the state has to play in economic transformation. The 2014 Report also pivots on the 2013 Report which focuses on linking Africa’s vast raw materials with industrialization.

According to the 2014 Report, poor industrialization in Africa is due to the fact that African states tend to blindly copy industrialization policies from other states especially states in the West. Other factors which have contributed to Africa’s erroneous industrialization image include a lack of collaboration with other actors especially the private sector and academia.

Apart from exposing Africa’s porous industrialization policies, the 2014 Report paints a positive image of other states in the South like Rwanda, South Africa and Nigeria that have made great strides towards industrialization. The 2014 Report also proposes institutional measures for adequate industrial policies in Africa especially the Central African region, which remains the least industrialized region on the continent. It calls on African states, taking into cognizance limited resources, to invest in adequate infrastructure that would accommodate serious demands of growing industrial sectors.

There is no gainsaying that Africa is in need of policies which reflect the local realities. Governments of States especially in the Central African region have vehemently refused to put in place industrialization policies which promote free markets. Countries like Cameroon, Chad, Equatorial Guinea, the Democratic Republic of Congo, Congo Brazzaville and Gabon continue to export raw materials which could easily be processed at home if these countries were adequately industrialized. The private sector in these states also remains underdeveloped, especially as available human resources remains inadequately trained. Heavy taxes also cripple industrial start ups especially in the Central African region. There are several Africans who have returned home in a bid to start up industries, but the porous industrial policies in place would not allow them flourish.

To make sure that growth is both beneficial and long lasting to all strata on the continent of Africa, states, especially states in the Central African region; need to put in place industrial policies that fit their own local contexts as suggested in the 2014 Report. State Constitutions need to put in place a firm legal foundation upon which adequate industrialization can grow. The constitutional basis for true industrialization then needs to be backed up with legislation grown from consultations with legislators, academics, senior civil servants and members of civil society. Apart from legal instruments, there is also a need for firm administrative and judicial institutions to have clearly defined mandates of formulating and pushing through such policies especially policies which promote free markets. It does not suffice to just have legal instruments and institutions in place. Those who are called upon to follow up on industrialization policies in Africa must be adequately trained with state of the art skills.

A canker worm eating into the fabric of the already poor industrialization image in Africa is corruption. African States need to work extra hard to stamp out corruption especially with respect to industrialization.

If such measures are put in place by state actors in collaboration with the private sector, then Africa may boast of adequate industrialization by 2065. If not, then reports such as the 2014 Report may remain a waste of time and tax payers’ money.

Chofor Che is an integral part of the Africanliberty’s Voice of Liberty initiative. He is also a Doctoral Law candidate at the Faculty of Law, University of the Western Cape and blogs at http://choforche.wordpress.com/

Chofor writes on the 2014 Africa Report