Africa has remained the major supplier of primary commodities, particularly agricultural products and mineral resources, to the rest of the world since the turn of the century. However, the COVID-19 pandemic exposed the continent of its various structural bottlenecks which has since rekindled the need for the continent to industrialize. These structural inefficiencies have since been exacerbated by the Russian-Ukraine war which has disrupted global value chains and, Africa has been relatively the hardest hit both in terms of rising prices coupled with shortages with basic commodities. This comes at a time when most African have experienced premature deindustrialization over the years as compared to the developed countries of Asia and Europe which experienced deindustrialization as a natural phenomenon. They (read: Africa) have over the past decades focused only on resource extraction and agricultural activities plagued with unpredictability in terms of international prices coupled with low productivity in the said sectors.

The African Development Bank (AfDB)’s industrialization report tracks the industrial policy of over 50 African countries, excluding Somalia and South Sudan. Industrialization being defined as the structural change from the primary sector, that is agriculture or resource-based economy, towards the manufacturing sector. In essence, the index measures the capacity of countries to produce and export manufactured goods. “Overall, many countries have made significant gains in their industrial development over the coverage period 2010–2021, with 37 of 52 Regional Country Members improving their AII score. However, some countries recorded only a marginal improvement, thereby falling in the ranking as the score was not enough to boost it, while others performed satisfactorily. Only 25 countries improved their rank and 4 remained in the same position as in 2010”, read the report. Moreover, the performance of the countries over the period was negatively affected by the C-19 pandemic which brought a halt in many sectors of the respective countries.

Of interest, although Zimbabwe was among the top performers in terms of industrial policy in the 1980s it has however deteriorated over the past three decades. Zimbabwe was among the main losers in terms of rankings together with Malawi, Angola, Congo, et cetera. In the case of Zimbabwe, the fall in the manufacturing sector was due to negative or premature deindustrialization which began in the 1990s which was a result of an extractive political economy coupled with weak institutions and weak government industrial policies skewed towards socialist and leftist policies instead of encouraging and embracing private sector growth. Regionally, North Africa which includes the fastest growing emerging economy, Egypt, remains the most advanced region in terms of industrialization followed by Southern, Central, West and East Africa.