Industrialisation and Infrastructure

Africa’s economic emergence and transition from a continent of low-income into middle-income economies, requires transforming the economic structure from predominantly agrarian and extractive activities to more vibrant and value adding industrial sectors like processing and manufacturing.

Industrialisation, with carefully carved strong backward and forward linkages to domestic economies, will help African countries to achieve high growth rates, diversify their economies and reduce their exposure to external shocks. This will substantially contribute to poverty eradication through employment and wealth creation. The success of Africa’s industrialisation program will require the creation of enabling environment that enhances domestic capacity in respect of physical and social infrastructure, human capital, financial systems, research and development (R&D), technology and governance.

The ability of African countries to establish a competitive industrial sector and promote greater industrial linkages has been hindered by poor infrastructure (energy, transport, communication, etc.), which has resulted in high production and transaction costs. It is therefore imperative to drum up massive investments in infrastructure, including energy. The development of infrastructure, therefore, has to be made a priority at national, regional and continental levels. Regional cooperation in the development of infrastructure would lower transaction costs, enhance regional markets and make production and exports more competitive. Regional integration would also contribute to reducing the regulatory burden facing African industries through harmonizing policies and restraining unfavorable domestic policies. Furthermore, it would boost inter and intra-African trade thereby accelerating industrialisation in Africa.


Strategic Direction/Objectives and Scope of Work

ECA supports infrastructure and industrial development in Africa by providing policy options for advisory services and technical assistance to Regional Economic Communities (RECs), the African Union Commission and the NEPAD Planning and Coordination Agency. In this regard, the Industrialisation and Infrastructure Section (IIS) of RITD, focuses on promoting evidence based policy formulation as well as the harmonization of policies, laws, regulations, standards and practices that catalyze not only infrastructure development but also accelerated industrial development in Africa. 

The section undertakes policy research on the linkages between infrastructure, industrialisation and regional integration in the context of Africa’s economic transformation. It generates evidence to promote strategic investment in infrastructure – transport and energy - in support of value addition and industrial development. It also undertakes research and formulates policy recommendations on how industrialisation can serve as a launching pad for long-term diversification and competitiveness of African countries.


ECA has always played a leading role in promoting infrastructure development in Africa. This explains why the Commission is mandated by several United Nations General Assembly resolutions to support its Member States on issues related to infrastructure and services development. Some of these mandates are ongoing, notably the implementation and review of the Almaty Programme of Action, that addresses the special needs of landlocked developing countries within a global framework for transit transport cooperation; and the UN Decade of Action for Road Safety (2011 – 2020) for which ECA spearheaded the development of the African Action Plan. In addition to UN General Assembly mandates, member States and regional organizations, particularly AUC and Regional Economic Communities (RECs), rely on ECA to develop and implement programmes such as those of transit transport corridors, the Trans-African Highways (TAH) network, the African Transport Policy Programme (SSATP), the Yamoussoukro Decision for air transport liberalization, and the Programme for Infrastructure Development in Africa (PIDA). Most of these programmes are already well articulated and adopted or endorsed by African Heads of State, and the challenge today is to speed up their implementation. In this regard, the Industrialisation and Infrastructure Section undertakes research on trends and constraints in the implementation of regional infrastructure programmes and provides evidence-based policy recommendations to fast-track their implementation. It also analyses feasible innovative financing mechanisms for infrastructure development.


ECA also continues to foster regional energy cooperation and trade; address energy access and security constraints to development; improve Africa’s energy sector management through policy analysis, decision tools and capacity building; engage in advancing Safer Energy For All (SEFA) initiatives and lastly, providing capacity development in energy planning to effectively manage current and future energy demand for industrialisation and development. In addition, the Commission is at the forefront of studies on eco-efficient infrastructure development and management for the region.


ECA is also fully engaged as the technical and policy research partner in the tripartite arrangements (with AUC and UNIDO) for the Conference of African Ministers of Industry (CAMI) which serves as a central platform for policy debate regarding industrialisation in Africa. The Section therefore continues to support the Accelerated Industrial Development in Africa (AIDA) initiative through substantive knowledge contributions and policy recommendations. The consensus in Africa today is that industrialisation should focus on two aspects: improvement of industrial performance at the sub-regional level and the diversification of productive capacities using Africa’s own natural resource endowments as a basis for industrial transformation and upgrading; and the expansion of integration efforts, taking advantage of existing support measures to access regional and global markets. Overall the Section focuses on industrial policy formulation and implementation; regional industrial integration; and Africa’s integration into global industrial value chains