The Paradox of Plenty: Industrialization as a Solution for Africa’s Problems

By Soko Directory Team / March 14, 2017

We see in industrialization the central problem of building in our time. If we succeed in carrying out industrialization, the social, economic, technical and also artistic problems will be readily solved. But this isn’t a task that can be accomplished in a twinkle of an eye; Africa has been lagging behind when it comes to industrialization which has left many jobless and in dire poverty. African countries need to promote industrial development to spur economic progress and reduce poverty. There are various factors that hold back industrialization in Africa;

The resource curse

Africa has valuable and plentiful supply of resources. This can also be termed the paradox of the plenty because African countries that seem to have enormous amount of wealth tend to have less economic growth and lower standards of living than those that have less wealth. In such countries the government has no incentive to be accountable to its citizens. This is because the government doesn’t need to tax citizens in order to garner funds and therefore has no stake in creating infrastructure in order to improve the standard of living for its people. The poorest African states are those engaged in or just emerging from civil wars. These include the Somalia, Sudan, Darfur, Rwanda, Congo, Sierra Leone, and Burundi. In recent times, the poorest region has been the Horn of Africa, Nigeria, and Democratic Republic of Congo. This has directly affected general industrialization in Africa.


Dominance of conflict and civil war in African countries has led to destruction of resources and has contributed to underdevelopment in Africa. Africa has seen dozens of wars, both civil and international. This has contributed to poverty because states have spent their scarce resources on military equipment and supplies. Development has suffered, since warfare has scared off foreign investors, destroyed infrastructure. Wars cost a lot of money and average African civil wars last 10 years and cost approximately 64 billion dollar, this wars are mostly politically inclined in most African countries. This is witnessed in countries like Somalia, Nigeria, and Southern Sudan who are in complex situations involving a myriad of parties. Civil wars drag back African countries from achieving industrialization. 

Africa’s landlocked countries pay more than double the rate of other countries in Asia for transport of goods in Africa. Generally, transportation costs in Africa are highest when it compared to any region in the world. Landlocked countries have to pay in transportation costs of up to 75% of their export goods. More than 20% of African exports reach the US by air. It’s estimated that air transport costs account to 50% of the value of the exports. Internally, air transport costs across Africa are up to four times the cost of getting the same over Atlantic Ocean. This negatively impacts the African economy because of the fear of spending more on exports hence African countries opt for selling their goods within their nations which doesn’t yield compared to exports.


Poor and inadequate infrastructure (roads, ports, airports), both hard and soft infrastructure are among the major factors that hinder industrialization in Africa. Power is Africa’s biggest infrastructure weak point, with as many as 30 countries facing regular power outages this has led to high energy costs combined with other infrastructure deficits, such as rail and road problems, have lowered productivity rates. According to the World Bank, the continent’s infrastructure deficit is considered one of the most significant barriers to sustaining Africa’s growth. It is estimated that the continent will need to invest nearly $93 billion per year over the next decade to bridge the deficit.

The most damaging are the famines that have regularly hit the continent, especially the Horn of Africa. These have been caused by disruptions due to warfare, years of drought, and plagues of locusts. Africa continues to suffer from low levels of agricultural productivity and is constantly bedeviled by famines. A large part of the continent’s inability to feed itself and stimulate rural entrepreneurship can be explained by poor infrastructure (transportation, energy, irrigation, and telecommunication). African farmers without adequate road networks are condemned to grow not what they can eat, but what they can carry on their heads and eat quickly before pests destroy it. As a result, nearly half of the hungry people in Africa are farmers. This has had a great negative impact on the industrialization in Africa.


These factors and many others not forgetting insecurity, terrorism, diseases such as HIV/AIDS, drought, floods, poor technology and poor education systems have had an impact in underdevelopment in Africa have substantially held back industrialization in Africa.

Related: Volkswagen Launches its Manufacturing Company in Kenya

Written by Amina Martha.


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