Industrialisation a political project

ZIMBABWE a week ago hosted an Intergovernmental Committee of Experts (Ice) meeting, not widely reported in the media, in Victoria Falls to discuss how to accelerate industrialisation in the region through beneficiation and value-addition.

Editor’s Memo with Dumisani Muleya

Ice is an organ of the Economic Commission for Africa (ECA) which holds annual meetings to discuss key issues on economic and social development in the sub-region to come up with measures to address them.

The recent meeting came against a background of last year’s Sadc summit also held in Victoria Falls under the theme “Sadc Strategy for Economic Transformation: Leveraging the Region’s Diverse Resources for Sustainable Economic and Social Development through Value Addition and Beneficiation.”

Zimbabwe is also soon expected to hold another meeting on industrialisation in Harare. This will be in keeping with the African Union’s Agenda 2063 which seeks to create a paradigm shift and new impetus on development.

While these efforts must be commended as steps in the right direction, attempts to address development of industry on an extensive scale in countries like Zimbabwe will always fail unless underlying critical issues are tackled first.

Consensus is emerging Africa must now do things very differently to take advantage of its abundant natural and human resources. The continent must learn from the past, build on the progress underway and strategically exploit opportunities available to ensure positive socio-economic transformation.

This implies a number of issues which must be confronted first.
Industrialisation is as much an economic as it is a political project which requires leadership and political will. It needs good policy choices, innovation and creativity.

Development economists say the main difference between poor and rich countries lies in their politics, economic institutions and policies, as well as leadership. Everything else matters less.

That’s why some countries with abundant natural resources like Zimbabwe are poor, while others without such as Singapore are rich.
ECA Southern Africa regional director Said Adejumobi brilliantly articulated it when he said: “Industrialisation is a political project with an economic strategy.

“It is about making correct policy choices, creating the necessary institutions and incentives and summoning the political will to do things in the most unconventional ways.”

Adejumobi says “unorthodox thinking” is needed to pave Africa’s path to the future, which means embracing a vision where social change and economic development are technology-driven.

And herein lies another critical point. Zimbabwe has been going in the opposite direction. It has been focusing on agrarian reforms, while de-industrialising the economy. Even though land reform was necessary, despite serious downside risks, production has plunged and the economy driven into a tailspin amid widespread company closures and job losses — de-industrialisation on a massive scale.

Africa’s economic resurgence and transition from a continent of low-income into middle-income economies requires an overhaul of the base and superstructure to move away from predominantly agrarian and extractive activities to infrastructure development-led, technology-driven and value-adding industrialisation.

Industrialisation, with carefully carved strong backward and forward linkages to domestic economies, can help African countries like Zimbabwe to achieve high growth rates, diversify their economies and reduce their exposure to external shocks. This could substantially contribute to poverty eradication through employment and wealth creation.

But what must Zimbabwe specifically do to get it right?
Well, indigenisation — which is materially different from empowerment — is the opposite of what must be done.

Zimbabwe must change its negative politics, embrace inclusive economic institutions and implement progressive policies as well as incentives, while abandoning extractive regimes and methods.

The rule of law, property rights and human rights must be upheld as part of deliberate efforts to create a friendly business environment to attract direct foreign investment to fuel recovery. The current political regime is simply unable or unwilling to do this.

3 thoughts on “Industrialisation a political project”

  1. kwv says:

    I agree with all you have said on this matter. A prosperous economy cannot be built on hatred, racism and theft and most important of all a prosperous economy is not possible without the Rule of Law. This simple fact has been known for thousands of years.

    What Zimbabwe needs is business co-operation and partnership between us and those countries where our markets lie. We have abundant physical resources but we don’t have the technology or the management skills – they have the technology, management skills – and the customers.

    This actually applies throughout Africa and the Third World in general. But locals seem terrified to enter into such partnerships. With the Rule of Law and good and just laws, there is no reason for fear. It can be a win-win situation.

  2. sahxy says:

    Black Africa is a lost cause. How can people seriously hold meetings to talk of industrialisation in 2015. This should have been done 2 days after Independence.They once held meetings on smart partnerships, what happened to that? We are doomed. As a chinese leader said recently, ‘history has taught us that those who are weak will be bullied” . History teaches Africans nothing.

  3. kwv says:

    One of the most serious factors was that Zimbabwe has relentlessly targeted those white citizens most able to build the economy, right from 1980.

    Most of these people were very patriotic and really wanted to help build the country. However, they also did not like corruption and nepotism and yet these were strong in society

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