Participants at the New Industrial Policy in Africa: How To Overcome the Extractivist Trap? conference in Madagascar, November 2015.
the issue remains a technical one. The industrial policy literature and advice continue to be based on an outdated notion of “successful” development, one that is achieved through expansion of manufacturing as the locus of technology, innovation and productivity enhancement. This approach still maintains that there is a single, correct method of developing and that there is a silver-bullet. There is a great amount of irony in the fact that the very motivations that led to the re-emergence of industrial policy are the same ones that we discredit or ignore. Countries want to use their collective power to influence their economic development in new ways but industrial policy experts keep telling them that the old way is the only way. The terms inclusiveness and sustainability actively reject a ‘growthfirst-everything-else-after’ approach to
development, yet as I sat next to the Malagasy economic advisor, we heard nothing but experts speaking about the importance of global value chains and export diversification for growth. He then leant over to me and spoke solemnly about how little control they had when a foreign nickel extractor came in and promised job creation and growth in exchange for low levels of taxation, but ended up leaving nothing but mass unemployment and contamination when company left the country in search of a more “attractive” investment location. Industrial policy has the potential to help countries regain some of their rapidly deteriorating economic sovereignty and pioneer alternative development trajectories that are appropriate for their context and objectives. But if we are to do this, we must stop making this discipline appear
so prescriptive that we cannot connect with even the best-intentioned policy practitioners. While development thinking has evolved, our understanding of industrial policy has not. In order to effectively tackle the issues of our time, it is more important than ever that we stop peddling ‘one-size-fits-all’ solutions and start supporting countries in using industrial policy to promote the economic activities they believe will serve the multi-faceted needs and desires of their populations. AMANDA JANOO works for The Industrial Policy Organization. She was previously an industrial policy analyst in UNIDO’s Industrial Policy Advice Unit. Prior to joining UNIDO, she worked in India and Indonesia on issues relating to economic development, employment generation and enterprise development.
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