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structural transformation

Africa means never saying goodbye

Justin Yifu Lin's picture

I visited three African countries – Ethiopia, Rwanda, and South Africa– during my first week as Chief Economist at the World Bank in June 2008. Many visits to other African countries followed, but Ethiopia holds for me a special interest. I’ve just visited again, for a fourth time. While I am sure I will go back again after I depart the Bank on June 1 this year, this was my final visit to Africa as Chief Economist.

Over four years, I’ve seen Ethiopia gradually embrace structural transformation and its practical application. Leaders there are acutely aware that, if they are to maintain a robust growth rate (GDP growth has been around 10.5% on average over the past few years), they must move away from agriculture, the dominant sector, toward industrial upgrading and technological innovation, often by imitating economies just a few rungs up the economic ladder.  Ethiopia’s agriculture sector is important and should not be neglected, but that alone won’t get the country onto a path toward middle income and finally to high income status.

Light Manufacturing in Africa: Targeted Policies To Enhance Private Investment And Create Jobs

Hinh T. Dinh's picture

For many African countries, one important way to create productive jobs is to grow the labor-intensive light manufacturing sector, which would accelerate economic progress and lift workers from low-productivity agriculture and informal sectors into higher productivity activities.  

Sub-Saharan Africa’s low wage costs and abundant material base have the potential to allow light manufacturing to jump-start the region’s long-delayed structural transformation and over-reliance on low-productivity agriculture.  Moreover, as globalization advances and China evolves away from a comparative advantage in labor-intensive manufactured products toward more advanced industrial production, African economies such as Ethiopia and Tanzania are uniquely positioned to take advantage of this opportunity.

Viewpoint on a rising dragon

Justin Yifu Lin's picture

As a counterpoint to grim forecasts coming out of Europe, I am hopeful that we can anticipate an Asian century where China will grow dynamically for another 20 years. Yet there are caveats to this optimistic scenario: Success in China will require a process of continual transformation and the wherewithal to tackle what I describe as a triple imbalance at the national level. I expound on this and other points in a BBC viewpoint piece published on November 23.

Picking winners

Justin Yifu Lin's picture

Concepts derived from structural-change theory are being revived and debated in exciting new ways, as evidenced in a recent conference at the World Bank earlier this month on ‘Structural Transformation and Economic Growth.’ Top researchers presented new papers and new ongoing work that covered globalization and structural transformation, sectoral diversification and human capital, industrial policy, and country case studies. 

The conference revealed an important emerging consensus about the role of the government in providing both soft infrastructure (for example a conducive business environment, regulations, and legal system) and hard infrastructure (such as port facilities, highways, telecommunications, and power).  Indeed, few dispute that broad-based interventions to support industrial upgrading and diversification are crucial to facilitating structural transformation and to spurring sustainable growth. 

Uzbekistan explores a path to growth

Justin Yifu Lin's picture

Does a remote double-landlocked Commonwealth of Independent States country have the potential to grow at 8 percent a year for the next 20 years? Call me an optimist, but I have just been to the country and I am convinced it’s true. My lecture to a packed audience in Tashkent on ‘Uzbekistan: New Strategies and Opportunities for Structural Transformation’ was well received. Perhaps they were just being extraordinarily polite hosts, but officials there thought my visit marked a transformation point and at the end of my visit, they said they’d start working on a long-term development vision report together with the World Bank and their think tanks.

The recipe for dynamic growth in a developing country is to tap into latecomer’s advantages by developing industries in accordance with its comparative advantages in a well-functioning market economy with the state playing a facilitating role. In the case of Uzbekistan, the potential of late comer advantages have been enormous in many sectors including the traditional ones, such as carpet, garment and horticulture, and modern ones, such as consumer electronics and cars. I visited a carpet factory in Samarkand. Impressed by the owner’s entrepreneurship and the abundant supply of well-educated, disciplined, wage-competitive workers, I am convinced Uzbekistan can out compete Turkey as the world’s production center of synthetic carpets in the coming years.

Development economics thinks big but also gets practical—postcard from Paris

Justin Yifu Lin's picture

ABCDE 2011, Paris. Photo: OECD
Development is about big systemic changes, complex tradeoffs, political choices and how the fruits of growth are channeled for the greater good. It is also about broadening opportunities – a goal that if neglected can result in frustrated citizens and tumult as we have seen in the North Africa and Middle East.

These were some of the many messages I took away from the ABCDE conference just held in Paris.

Development economics thinks big but also gets practical—postcard from Paris

Justin Yifu Lin's picture

ABCDE 2011, Paris. Photo: OECD
Development is about big systemic changes, complex tradeoffs, political choices and how the fruits of growth are channeled for the greater good. It is also about broadening opportunities – a goal that if neglected can result in frustrated citizens and tumult as we have seen in the North Africa and Middle East.

These were some of the many messages I took away from the ABCDE conference just held in Paris.

Flying Geese, leading dragons and Africa’s potential

Justin Yifu Lin's picture

The “flying geese” pattern describes the sequential order of the catching-up process of industrialization of latecomer economies.The potential for expanding the industrial sectors of African countries is substantial – this was a message I delivered on a recent trip to Italy, Tanzania, Mozambique and Malawi. This can happen through an improved understanding of the mechanics of economic transformation as well as by focusing on how such countries can follow their comparative advantage in natural resources and labor supply. 

During my site visits and meetings with the private sector for the African segments of my trip, I became more convinced than ever of the strong untapped potential for private sector-led industrialization. Yet that can only happen when the government plays a facilitating role, such as by overcoming information asymmetries, coordination failures and externalities associated with first-mover actions. In Tanzania, initial experiments with industrial parks look promising, as do agricultural development projects and rural transport initiatives currently under way. In the case of industrial parks, it’s important to have a one-stop shop for registration and other administrative obligations, adequate electricity and water supply, and good transport/logistics links.

Structural Change, growth and jobs

Merrell Tuck-Primdahl's picture

Structural transformation is a key determinant of productivity growth and explains two-thirds of the difference between superior East Asian growth and more muted Latin American growth in the past two decades.

Given the multi-speed paths that regions and countries take as they transform, with some succeeding spectacularly and some struggling to compete, it may be time to consider new industrial and labor policies to ensure that a huge swath of the lower middle class in the developing world doesn’t get left behind in the race to compete in today’s unforgiving global marketplace.


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