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Re-Industrialising Africa

In the report of the Economic Commission for Africa at the WTO Public Forum, above, readers will have noted that manufacturing in Africa as a whole has reduced over that last decades. Many foreign observers talk about the lack of manufacturing diversity in Africa. There is still very little B2B ecommerce for example, but the advent of ecommerce has seen many entrepreneurs trying their hand at developing and pushing products into the consumer market. For SMEs digital goods are attractive in that they can be more affordable to create due to a lack of capital cost, overheads, manufacturing, and inventory holding costs. However, selling a physical product offers new entrepreneurs with several benefits. Traditionally, physical products are prototyped, designed, and then mass produced at a fraction of the original cost of production. Physical goods tend to be easier to patent and brand than digital goods and services, and they also tend to gain popularity through word of mouth faster than their digital counterparts, as buyers can easily show and share their reviews of the product. But the process of manufacturing can be daunting to a new business because of the complexity involved. Here are a few key manufacturing processes and tips which I found interesting.

However, a recent report from the  World Bank, “Trouble in the Making”, concludes that manufacturing is becoming less relevant for low-income countries. With an outdated story that gives up on manufacturing, Africa will fail to close the huge digital gap it still faces. The gap is reflected in the fact the Continent contributes less than 1% of world’s digital knowledge production. To reduce this gap, African countries will have to start by expanding internet access and use. If internet use across the Continent can be expanded to the same rate as in high-income countries, the report concludes that 140 million new jobs and US$2,2 trillion could be added to GDP.

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Alastair Tempest


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