Africa Industrialization Day: A Peek At 10 Of The Most Industrialized African Countries

Africa Industrialization Day
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Ford Silverton manufacturing plant, Pretoria
Ford Silverton manufacturing plant, Pretoria. Manufacturing key to a healthy economy (Photo credit: BusinessLIVE)

The Industrial Revolution that began in the 18th century signaled the dawn of economic development in Europe. There were societies that were formerly agriculturally inclined. These transitioned to ones that employed mechanization in industry. As a result, there were new tools, innovative technologies, and new sources of energy in use.

Subsequently, these transformed economies, uplifted standards of living, created wealth and changed lives. Fast-forward to the present time, every 20th November is now set aside for the celebration of Africa Industrialization Day. The focus will be on the gains Africa has made in terms of industrialization and the challenges that continue to plague the continent and hamper growth.

What is Africa Industrialization Day?

The United Nations adopts the use of International Days to garner support for crucial causes. In 1989, the United Nations General Assembly set aside November 20 as “Africa Industrialization Day”.

Therefore, this is an opportunity to sensitize the public on the need to industrialize Africa for economic growth and poverty eradication. Accordingly, there will be week-long activities, campaigns, and media events that will target stakeholders and policymakers.

The major event for Africa Industrialization Day 2021

From 20-24 November a summit will take place in Niamey, Niger as part of the Africa Industrialization Day celebration. The summit is entitled “Africa’s Industrialization and Economic Diversification”.

This years’ celebration is particularly significant as January 2021 marked the launch of the African Continental Free Trade Area (AfCFTA) Agreement. The AfCFTA agreement is a vital step toward attaining a one-Africa integrated economy.

Among those expected to attend the summit are heads of international organizations such as the African Union and United Nations, as well as Heads of State and Government.

Factors that hamper progress in the Industrialization of Africa

The move from agricultural activities to manufacturing is crucial to building economies and uplifting nations from poverty. Whereas Africa is rich in natural resources such as minerals, fisheries, cocoa beans, and other assets, large-scale manufacturing is lacking. This can be attributed to the challenges that industries face, such as:

  • Deficiencies in the energy sector—there are frequent power cuts and the supply is costly
  • Undeveloped skills and lack of qualified manpower
  • High cost of capital
  • Poor infrastructures such as bad roads and inefficient ports
  • Corruption

There is Light at the end of the tunnel

The United Nations University World Institute for Development conducted research regarding industrialization trends in developing countries. The study uncovered positive developments in the area of industrialization in several African countries.

There are 18 countries in sub-Saharan Africa that generate three-quarters of the GDP of the region through manufacturing. Below are 10 of the countries that are listed in the report.

#1. Tanzania

Tanzania making strides in industrial development
Tanzania making strides in industrial development (Photo credit: UONGOZI Blog)

The government of Tanzania is driving industrialization in a bid to attain a middle-income economy by 2025. The country enjoyed a 48% increase in its industrial sector production between 2014 and 2018. However, food processing makes up 24% of the manufacturing sector followed by clothing, textiles, and chemicals.

 #2. Rwanda

There is growth in the textile industry in Rwanda
There is growth in the textile industry in Rwanda (Photo credit: Cyril Ndegeya)

Industrialization and job creation occupy the top place on the Rwandan economic agenda. The main industries include cement, agricultural products, textiles, shoes, and others. Rwanda has enjoyed strong economic growth, especially in the services sector. The manufacturing sector contributed 17% to the GDP in 2019, and the country is focusing on fast-moving consumer goods and construction materials. Among the products exported are mattresses, paint, plastic tanks, and garments.

#3. Angola

Angola is rich in mineral reserves
Angola is rich in mineral reserves (Photo credit: World Atlas)

The main industries in Angola are petroleum, iron ore, gold, fish processing, sugar, and others. Also, the major exports include diamonds, coffee, and petroleum products. Oil production contributes 50% of the country’s GDP. Angola’s economy is showing positive signs of recovery after the pandemic and the country’s GDP is projected to grow by 2.8% in 2022.

#4. Morocco

Motor assembly in Morocco
Motor assembly in Morocco (Photo credit: Morocco World News.)

As far back as the 1960s, Morocco put in place measures to increase production and modernize the economy. The major industries here are textiles, leather, electronic assembly, and oil refining. Exports include electrical machinery, vehicles, and fertilizers. The country’s unemployment rate currently stands at 12.8% as of the third quarter of 2021.

#5. Egypt

A petrochemical complex in Egypt
A petrochemical complex in Egypt (Photo credit: Egypt today)

There are a few countries in the world that experienced economic growth during the pandemic. Interestingly, Egypt was one of them. In a statement made to “Egypt Today” in July 2021, the Minister of Trade and Industry, Nevine Gamea reported that the industrial sector contributed 17.1% to the GDP in 2019/20. Going forward, Egypt aims to put legislation in place to streamline the process of exporting and importing goods in order to cut costs.

#6. Kenya

Kenya experiencing growth in the manufacturing industry
Kenya experiencing growth in the manufacturing industry despite-pandemic (Photo credit: HapaKenya)

Industrialization is part of this nation’s Vision 2030 development goals. Kenya’s economy is growing rapidly, and in 2020 had the third-largest economy after Nigeria and South Africa. The main industries in Kenya are agriculture, forestry, energy, financial services, and others. The country is the global leader in the export of black tea and cut flowers. Other agricultural exports include coffee and vegetables.

#7. Ghana 

Africa Industrialization Day: Gains in Ghana
Industries in Ghana have contributed to the growth of the economy (Photo credit:

In Ghana, the industry contributes 25.3%  of the total GDP. As a result, the country is one of the world’s fastest-growing economies. Cocoa is Ghana’s principal agricultural export. However, the government is driving initiatives to diversify the economy, attract investment, and stimulate local production. As a result, there has been a rise in business confidence. Interestingly, the unemployment rate in Ghana is projected to reach 4.6% by the end of 2021. This is better than in some developed economies.

#8. Nigeria

Nigeria's lucrative oil industry
Nigeria’s lucrative oil industry (Photo credit: Businessday. ng)

Home to one of the largest economies in Africa, the dominant part of Nigeria’s economy is based on resource extraction. Therefore, crude oil, coal, tin, and other minerals are important sources of revenue. There are also industries such as steel mills petrochemical plants, pulp, and paper mills. In addition, the small-scale industry is also a major contributor to Nigeria’s economy. The Greater Lagos area has the largest concentration of factories.

#9. Ethiopia

Celebration of Africa Industrialization Day as advances are made in the textile and clothing industry in Ethiopia
Celebration of Africa Industrialization Day: advances are made in the textile and clothing industry in Ethiopia (Photo credit:

Ethiopia has in place an industrial policy that the country aggressively implements. The major industries in Ethiopia include leather and hide tanning and coffee and tea manufacturing. The goal of the government is to attain a level where the manufacturing sector contributes 20% of the GDP by the year 2025. To achieve that goal, Ethiopia has created industrial parks that accommodate co-related industries within them. Hopefully, the country will not plunge into a full civil war which will roll back the gains made so far.

#10. South Africa

The mining sector plays a vital role in the economy of South Africa
The mining sector plays a vital role in the economy of South Africa (Photo credit: Brand South Africa.)

This is the only country in Africa that is classified as industrialized. South African made the transition from an agricultural society to an industrial economy in the late 19th century. It was the discovery of large diamond deposits that led to this revolution.

Presently, the country’s goal is to build a “diversified and competitive economy”. South Africa’s biggest exports are metals and minerals such as gold, diamonds, and platinum. The country also exports machinery and equipment. Sadly, South Africa has the highest unemployment rate at the moment and it is no thanks to the COVID-19 pandemic.

What to Keep in mind as we Celebrate Africa Industrialization Day

As the celebration of Africa Industrialization Day gets underway one reality stands out; for the continent to industrialize, it is vital for nations to boost trading between African states. Most importantly, they need to commit to the industrial development agenda. In an article entitled “Why does Africa’s industrialization matter? Challenges and opportunities?’’ Ahouassou Aristide said,

“Industrialization is pivotal to Africa’s long-term development and broadening and deepening the manufacturing sector will build more resilient economies. Africa is endowed with vast resources—in agriculture, mining, and maritime resources, which if properly harnessed, can stimulate a resource-based industrialization strategy.”

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