Just a few decades ago, the African island-nation of Mauritius depended overwhelmingly on growing sugar cane, and was as poor as much of Africa.
Since then, Mauritius has transformed itself into a diversified manufacturing and tourism center, able to attract foreign investors and provide its people with incomes far above the continental average.
Across Africa, most countries face the problem that Mauritius once did: they produce and export mainly unprocessed crops or minerals, even though such raw materials are fetching lower and lower prices on world markets.
In response, some are seeking to follow the example of Mauritius, to consciously and more energetically build up their manufacturing industries.
South Africa, a country developed through the revenues of its gold and diamond mines, is drafting new legislation to encourage companies to first process minerals before exporting them.
In neighboring Botswana, a realization that the economy cannot be sustained indefinitely on a single product, diamonds, has given renewed impetus to that country’s industrialization program.
The story is much the same in a small but growing number of African countries, including Namibia and Senegal.
Africa is clearly on a new path, says Executive Secretary K.Y. Amoako of the Addis Ababa-based UN Economic Commission for Africa, marked by economic reforms, greater commitment to political pluralism, a decline in conflicts and policies more favorable to private investment. “African countries should aim to be middle-income industrialized nations in the next three decades.” While this is a bold vision, Mr. Amoako says, it can be achieved.
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