Create ‘industries without smokestacks’ says Foresight Africa report

February 6, 2019
The African Center for Economic Transformation (ACET) in partnership with the Africa Growth Initiative at the Brookings Institution successfully launched the 2019 Foresight Africa report on 31 January in Accra, Ghana. The event, which attracted key stakeholders from academia, civil society, government, the private sector and the media, outdoored Brookings’ 2019 flagship report in Accra. The report highlights six top priorities for Africa in 2019, based on perspectives from diverse leaders, and recommends ways of tackling the challenges that lie ahead.

In his presentation, Dr. Brahima Coulibaly, a Senior Fellow and Director of the Africa Growth Initiative (AGI) at the Brookings Institution, asked leaders on the continent to explore what he described as ‘industries without smokestacks’. These industries include tourism, agro-processing and horticulture, which share many characteristics as manufacturing, especially the capacity to create better jobs. According to Foresight Africa, “the demographic tidal wave looms closer, and job creation has not yet been able to catch up.”

The launch featured a panel discussion led by ACET’s Head of Research, Professor John Asafu-Adjaye with Professor Felix Asante, Director of the Institute of Statistical, Social and Economic Research, Dr. Cynthia Forson, Deputy Provost at Lancaster University Ghana and Dr. Emmanuel Akwetey, Executive Director of the Institute of Democratic Governance as panelists.

The panel discussed the various themes of the Foresight Africa report beginning with bolstering good governance. Foresight Africa posits that “despite continued progress on governance, more efforts are needed to eradicate corruption and to elevate the voice of women and young people in the decision-making.” According to Dr. Cynthia Forson, the steps to tackling many of Ghana’s challenges are already known, but a lack of action and a ‘business as usual’ mindset pose big challenges to bolstering good governance.

“One key risk threatening the region’s outlook is what many fear is a looming debt crisis”, says the Foresight Africa report, a point taken up by the panelists. Dr. Akwetey stressed the need to strengthen fiscal policy since issues of debts in Ghana are mostly driven by elections while Dr. Asante emphasized the importance of channeling debts contracted to sectors that generate revenue and spark growth.

On youth unemployment, the need to tackle the root of unemployment took centre stage. “Africa’s working age population is growing rapidly, with estimations that the number of young people entering the region’s workforce will exceed that of the rest of the world by 2050”, says the report. To convert this youth bulge into a potential economic boon, Dr. Forson advocated training that enables the youth to develop critical thinking skills and entrepreneurial mindsets. She further stressed the need to involve the private sector in sharing the weight of training the youth to take advantage of the Fourth Industrial Revolution.

According to Foresight Africa, “the key to solving the employment problem is to develop an effective strategy for structural change that spans industries with and without smokestacks.” However, hopes of replicating the East Asian growth model are fading amid deindustrialization in Africa. The continent’s “share of global manufacturing is smaller than in 1980 and the share of manufacturing in GDP is less than half of the average for all developing countries”, says Foresight Africa.

The Accra launch followed a successful January 17 Washington launch. The Africa Growth Initiative aims to engage with various stakeholders on the continent, share findings and recommendations in Foresight, and elicit their feedback and suggestions to inform future work.



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