Bruce Byiers, Karim Karaki and Sean Woolfrey, ECDPM discussion paper 237, December 2018.
Industrial policy is on the rise in Africa. Along with the many African countries that have introduced national industrial policies, a number of Africa’s regional economic communities have adopted regional industrialisation strategies.
This paper summarises the political economy analyses of the regional industrialisation strategies in the COMESA, EAC, ECOWAS, and SADC regions, looking at these in terms of the three main market failures that national industrial policies seek to address. At the regional level, targeted coordination and ‘self-discovery’ approaches appear to have had most traction, while public inputs seem best provided at the national level. Establishing regional industrialisation as an overarching objective of regional cooperation and integration processes can also help to ensure that regional approaches to, for example, infrastructure development and trade facilitation, contribute more directly to economic transformation ambitions.
Regional strategies make sense at one level, given the potential for regional market integration to promote value chain development and support other industrial objectives. However, they largely ignore the competition dynamics between states in specific sectors. Moreover, their implementation is complicated by the fact that mechanisms used to pursue national industrial objectives often contradict regional commitments. The findings suggest that regional industrialisation strategies should be used to complement national industrial policies rather than to replicate or guide them.
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