Tuesday, December 19, 2017

Should Africa Emulate China's Development Model?

Ventures Africa published on 15 December 2017 an article titled "Why African Countries Should Emulate China's Development Model" by Felicia Omari Ochelle. The article draws primarily on comments made by Helen Hai, United Nations Industrial Development Organization (UNIDO) Goodwill Ambassador and CEO of the Made in Africa Initiative.

Hai argues that "Africa should follow China's development model and aim to become a light-manufacturing hub." Hai says that in the next few years, some 85 million jobs will be exported from China. If African countries can capture many of those jobs, they can enjoy the same economic transformation that China had. The 54 African countries, one by one, will be able to attain this transformation, she argues.

If only it were so easy. UNIDO seems to be on a campaign to move light manufacturing jobs from China to Africa. While this is a noble goal, it is about more than lower wages in Africa than in China. Some non-African countries that are also building their light manufacturing capacity have lower wages than most African countries. It is also a matter of good infrastructure, access to ports, availability of skills, good nutrition and health, good governance, and lack of conflict and corruption. While a few African countries are well positioned to take advantage of light manufacturing jobs moving out of China, most would probably be better advised, at least for the time being, to focus on expanding and reforming agriculture.

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