Chapter 14: Informality and innovation: an avenue towards bottom-up industrialisation for Africa?
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With the disruptive effects of new and emerging technologies in industrial patterns of production, the Global South and the countries with the lowest income in particular, must reflect on their development trajectories and objectives. Current patterns of industrialisation have been accompanied by growing income inequalities and a higher concentration of industrial activity in larger businesses, such as multinational enterprises. This has important implications for the industrialisation path in Africa, where manufacturing is dominated by small, informal firms. Evidence portrays these firms as highly innovative, although experiencing low technological capabilities and low productivity. This chapter urges the need to rethink industrial strategies on the African continent by proposing a ‘bottom-up approach to industrialisation’ that brings with it larger participation by micro- and small enterprises, including informal ones, by building on their distinct innovation and networking capabilities. Indeed, building inclusive and sustainable growth, and aiming to reduce intra- and inter-countries’ inequalities while securing participatory development practices, ought to be at the core of any future industrialisation strategy on the continent. In particular, this chapter claims that bottom-up industrialisation will have to start from the reconsideration and expansion of two concepts: informality and innovation.

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