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close this bookSustaining the Future: Economic, Social, and Environmental Change in Sub-Saharan Africa (UNU, 1996, 365 pages)
close this folderPart 1: Economy and society: development issues
close this folderUrbanization and industrialization: What future for Sub-Saharan Africa?
View the document(introductory text...)
View the documentIntroduction
View the documentThe continuing rapid rate and scale of urbanization
View the documentThe urban environment
View the documentThe limitations of industrialization
View the documentThe impact of structural adjustment
View the documentSub-Saharan Africa as the global periphery
View the documentImplications for urbanization and industrialization
View the documentReferences

The limitations of industrialization

It is no coincidence that Sub-Saharan Africa is not only the world's least urbanized continental region but also (apart from the Caribbean) the least industrialized. There are no newly industrializing countries (NICs) and no industrial cities on the scale of Shanghai, Hong Kong, Sao Paulo, or Mexico City. Even where industry forms a significant activity and has diversified since the 1960s, as in the major metropolitan centres and cities such as Bulawayo, it is geared essentially to import substitution for the domestic market rather than for export (Simon 1992). Many inappropriate prestige industrial projects have failed to operate efficiently, and such investments, especially when funded by the state, have drained resources from other sectors of the economy.

The emphasis has remained on primary import substitution, i.e. production of consumer non-durables, whereas Latin America and South-East Asia have made considerable progress in the spheres of consumer durables and light capital goods and in adopting successful export-substitution strategies. Moreover, the benefits to Sub-Saharan Africa of import-substituting industrialization have been reduced by its continued heavy import dependence on inputs and intermediate goods. Currency devaluations, especially as an element of structural adjustment of the economy over the 1980s, have aggravated the problems, leading to poor utilization even of existing industrial capacity. Even in South Africa, the most sophisticated Sub-Saharan economy, manufacturing (as distinct from all industry) provides only about a quarter of gross domestic product.