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 From UNCTAD :

On Planning for Development:  Economic Development in Africa series 
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The Economic Development in Africa series analyses selected aspects of Africa´s development problems and major policy issues confronting African countries. It makes policy recommendations for action by African countries themselves and by the international community to overcome the development challenges that the continent faces.
This report has been published annually since 2000. For further information contact:
For more information, please contact: UNCTAD Press Office  - T: +41 22 917 5828  - E:
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  • 2012 Structural transformation and sustainable development in Africa

    The Economic Development in Africa Report 2012, subtitled “Structural Transformation and Sustainable Development in Africa”, examines how African countries can promote sustainable development. The main message of the Report is that achieving sustainable development in Africa requires deliberate, concerted and proactive measures to promote structural transformation and the relative decoupling of natural resource use and environmental impact from the growth process. Sustainable structural transformation, as defined in the Report, is structural transformation with such decoupling.
    The Report builds on the Economic Development in Africa Report 2011 on Fostering Industrial Development in Africa in the New Global Environment. It also fits into UNCTAD’s broader work on the development of productive capacities. The report is timely in the light of the United Nations Conference on Sustainable Development (Rio+20), 20–22 June 2012 and the renewed global focus on greening economies occasioned by the global financial and economic crisis of 2008–2009. The concept of sustainable structural transformation provides a dynamic understanding of the efforts which are involved in greening an economy, and also places such efforts into a development perspective.

  • 2011 - Fostering industrial development in Africa in the new global environment

    There is mounting evidence indicating that industrial development presents great opportunities for sustained growth, employment and poverty reduction. Consequently, over the past decade, African governments have renewed their political commitment to industrialization and have adopted several initiatives at the national and regional levels to enhance prospects of achieving their development objectives.

    The Economic Development in Africa Report (EDAR) 2011 examines the status of industrial development in Africa with a focus on the identification of "stylized facts" associated with African manufacturing. It also provides an analysis of past attempts at promoting industrial development in the region and the lessons learned from these experiences. Furthermore, it offers policy recommendations on how to foster industrial development in Africa in the new global environment characterized by changing international trade rules, growing influence of industrial powers from the South, the internationalization of production, and increasing concerns about climate change.

    The Report argues that a new industrial policy is needed to induce structural transformation and engender development in African economies.

    The Report advocates a strategic approach to industrial policy-making which is based on an industrial diagnosis and proposes a framework for industrial strategy design which takes account of the heterogeneity of African economies and is also tailored to country-specific circumstances.

    Furthermore, the Report suggests that efforts to promote industrial development in Africa should focus on:

    1. The promotion of scientific and technological innovation
    2. The creation of linkages in the domestic economy
    3. The promotion of entrepreneurship
    4. The improvement of government capabilities
    5. Adoption of appropriate monetary and fiscal policies
    6. Avoiding exchange rate overvaluation
    7. Enhancing resource mobilization
    8. Strengthening regional integration
    9. Maintenance of political stability
  • 2010 - South-South Cooperation: Africa and the new forms of development partnership

  • 2009 - Strengthening Regional Economic Integration for Africa´s Development

  • 2008 - Export performance following trade liberalization: Some patterns and policy perspectives

  • 2007 - Reclaiming Policy Space, Domestic Resource Mobilization and Developmental States
    From UNCTAD:
    One of the most prominent objectives of the Millennium Development Goals is to have member States halve their levels of absolute poverty by 2015. But, Sub-Saharan Africa has been singled out as one region that is unlikely to meet this target. One of the reasons for this is its relatively low rate of economic growth.
    To raise the growth rate and sustain it at the level that will allow African countries to halve poverty by 2015 requires a significant increase in the volume of foreign and domestic resources devoted to promoting overall development in general, and poverty reduction programmes in particular.
    The objective of this year´s Report is to examine the potential of African countries to increase their total domestic financial resource envelope in order to reduce dependence on official development assistance (ODA), and diversify their development resources. A complementary objective is how to channel these resources to productive investments in order to increase their efficiency.
    Most of the challenges to development in general and to domestic resource mobilization and investment in particular, are manifestations of market failures plaguing African economies. Addressing these challenges requires an appropriate "policy mix" or "diversity of policies" tailored to the specific situation of each country, rather than a one-size-fits-all approach.
    The Report highlights the need for "developmental States" in Africa with the required policy space to design and implement policies that address their priorities and make optimal use of available resources in a way that leads to a virtuous circle of accumulation, investment, growth and poverty reduction.
    The Report argues that it is only by reclaiming its developmental role that the African State could give true meaning to the rhetoric of "ownership" of economic policies. It, however, warns that state involvement in development should not be seen as repeating past mistakes, such as over-protection and interventionism.

  • 2006 - Doubling Aid: Making the Big Push work
    From UNCTAD:
    UNCTAD´s 2006 report on Economic Development in Africa examines how the commitment by the international community to double aid to Africa might place the continent on a sustainable development path. The central message of the report is that, if this commitment is to translate into big reductions in poverty and lasting gains in economic welfare, new thinking is required to tackle the unbalanced state of the international aid system. The report identifies the flaws in the existing system, such as high transaction costs, politicization, lack of transparency, incoherence, unpredictability, and excessive demands placed on the weak institutions of recipients.
    According to the report, a "big push" provides a sensible alternative in seeing how renewed capital accumulation (in both the private and the public sector) can link up to structural and technological change, unleashing a cumulative process of rising productivity, incomes and savings. A "big push" would require a new aid architecture with a much larger multilateral component, managed under different institutional arrangements, and the provision of much greater policy autonomy to recipients.
    The report, drawing on both positive and negative aid experiences, suggests that greater multilateralization of aid "… can help to reduce unnecessary and costly competition among donors, and thus greatly reduce administration costs. It can also provide a buttress against the politicization of aid which has been so damaging in the past." From the recipient side, multilateral aid in the form of budget support can be subject to parliamentary oversight, be based on national programmes and priorities, and be responsive to national constituencies rather than donor Governments and multilateral financial institutions. The report suggests that the time is "perhaps right to revisit the idea, first broached in the 1950s, of a UN funding window" tailored to African development needs.

  • 2005 - Rethinking the Role of FDI
    From UNCTAD:
    In recent years, attracting FDI has assumed a prominent place in economic development strategies as a key to financing development in African countries, without adding further to their indebtedness. In addition, expectations have been raised that by creating jobs, transferring new technologies and building linkages with the rest of the economy, FDI will directly address the continents´ poverty challenge. Thus policy reforms aimed at improving the investment climate in African countries have increasingly been centred on attracting FDI without the desired results either in increasing FDI flows in productive sectors or in ensuring more rapid growth and poverty reduction. The continent at present accounts for just 2 to 3 per cent of global flows, down from a peak of 6 per cent in the mid-1970s. Even on a per capita basis, the gap between Africa and other developing regions widened significantly in the 1990s and remains very large.
    Africa´s particular combination of geographical, historical and structural features have traditionally attracted FDI into enclaves of export-oriented primary production with limited linkages to the rest of the economy. This situation has not changed much in recent years and has contributed to undermining a self-sustaining and dynamic investment process, in particular as the singular focus on attracting FDI through greater openness and downsizing of the state has drawn attention away from more fundamental determinants of FDI flows to Africa - namely market size and growth, resource endowments and infrastructure development.
    In the extractive sectors, competition to attract investment has led to an incentive inflation prompting what some observers describe as "a race to the bottom" not only in the more static sense of forgone fiscal earnings, but also in terms of giving up policy options necessary to organize a more dynamic long-term growth path.
    The Report cautions that FDI carries costs as well as benefits for the host country and consequently proceeds from the need to take a more critical approach to evaluating the size, type, and impact of FDI in African countries. It calls for a rethinking of the one-sided emphasis on attracting FDI and its replacement with a more balanced and more strategic approach tailored to African socio-economic conditions and development challenges.

  • 2004 - Debt Sustainability: Oasis or Mirage?

  • 2003 - Trade Performance and Commodity Dependence

  • 2002 - From Adjustment to Poverty Reduction: What is New?

  • 2001 - Performance, Prospects and Policy Issues

  • 2000 - Capital Flows and Growth in Africa
    From UNCTAD:
    The international community has long recognized that developing countries need a substantial inflow of external resources in order to fill the savings and foreign exchange gaps associated with a rapid rate of capital accumulation and growth. The latter are needed to overcome widespread poverty and to lift living standards to acceptable levels. Among various developing regions, the need for external financing is nowhere more pressing than in Africa, particularly in sub-Saharan Africa, where income levels are too low to generate adequate domestic resources for the attainment of even modest rates of investment and growth.
    Breaking this vicious circle requires, inter alia, a sustained injection of external financing in amounts large enough to enable the region to accelerate and maintain growth at levels higher than in the past. Since private capital inflows, in particular foreign direct investment (FDI), lag behind rather than lead growth, this initial push can only come from official sources of finance, and it needs to be combined with policies that recognize the need not only for market-based incentives, but also for a greater role for the State and for institution building.
    Such a process would help break aid dependence in two ways. First, rapidly rising income would enable domestic savings to rise faster than output, thereby raising total investable resources without additional external financing. Second, sustained growth would attract private capital as a substitute for official financing. Thus, the need for official financing would gradually diminish as these alternative sources of financing began to predominate.
    In other words, the only feasible way to end aid dependence is to launch a massive aid programme and to sustain rapid growth long enough to allow domestic savings and external private flows to gradually replace official aid. But if the minimum amount of resources needed to initiate and sustain such a process is not provided, aid dependence is likely to continue unabated.

    This paper addresses these issues. It reviews recent trends and examines the size and stability of Africa´s short-term capital flows, analysing the use of such inflows to offset financial transactions and real resource transfers. The paper presents various scenarios to analyse the possible evolution of domestic savings and private capital inflows through a process of rapid and sustained growth made possible by, inter alia, a large injection of foreign aid, as well as the implications of this process for aid dependence. Finally, it briefly discusses the policy approach needed to ensure that aid is translated into investment and growth, keeping in mind the policy mistakes made during both the pre- and post-adjustment periods.

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