Technology Development and Technology Systems in Africa
Chapter 2: The Relative Competitive and Technological Performance of Sub-Saharan Africa
3615_Failing2Compete/Chapter 2 16/9/02 12:00 pm Page 1 2. The relative competitive and technological performance of Sub-Saharan Africa THE RECENT BACKGROUND The weaknesses of African manufacturing are well known, but it is useful to review its broad dimensions. Growth in the past two decades has been low, in several cases negative. Over 1990-97, manufacturing value added (MVA) in Sub-Saharan Africa (SSA), excluding South Africa, grew at only 0.1 per cent per year. This poor performance occurred in the context of rapid industrial growth in other developing regions, with many countries using manufacturing to drive a rapid transformation of their production and export structures. The share of Africa, including South Africa, in global MVA has remained constant since 1980, at under 0.4 per cent (UNIDO, 1999). Even this low level of activity is highly concentrated. In 1998, South Africa by itself accounted for 55 per cent of total SSA’s MVA, and the next seven countries for another 22 per cent (ibid.). SSA is lagging not just in terms of the volume of manufacturing activity, but also (increasingly) in the technological content of this activity. This is at a time of unprecedented technological progress, when new technologies, skills, organizational methods and modes of networking are transforming the nature of economic activity. In some (largely traditional) activities, it is possible to remain competitive with unskilled cheap labour and processing natural resources. However, this base is eroding steadily. In an increasing number of industrial activities, competitiveness involves technological change, flexible response, greater networking...
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