November 20 – African Industrialization Day

Posted on November 20, 2015

As people work to industrialize many
African nations, hopefully they will
strive to create environmentally-sound
factories with good working conditions.
Ever since 1990, November 20 has been a day to focus on ways to stimulate Africa's industrialization.

Africa is a large continent, and each region and nation has its own strengths and challenges. So when I say something like, “Africa has...” or “Africa does not...” – I'm obviously speaking of general patterns of strengths and challenges. Please do not take it as descriptive of each and every nation.

Okay, here are two generalizations:
  • Africa has many natural resources, including mineral resources, biological diversity, and land area.
  • However, Africa's lack of industrialization in many places and industries means that it still struggles with joblessness and poverty.

And here are two examples of my two generalizations, given by Lawrence Mbae in a March, 2014, article:  
(1) Côte d’Ivoire and Ghana, between the two nations, produce more than half of the world's cocoa. However, if you check the supermarket shelves in those two nations, the chocolates people buy are imported from Switzerland and the U.K and other nations that do not grow cocoa!

(2) Nigeria is the world's sixth largest producer of crude oil. It exports more than 80% of its oil – but it cannot refine enough for its own use, and so it must import refined fuels from other nations.

In both cases, someone is making money selling Africa's raw resources, and someone is making money transporting Africa's resources to highly industrialized nations, and of course someone is making money producing and selling consumer products from those materials. Most depressing, perhaps, is that someone is making money transporting these consumer goods back to Africa and selling them to Africans.

Am I being to cynical to suppose that even the first two of the links in this chain may be, in many instances, European and North American companies?

Let's go back to our first generalization: Africa is rich in resources. As a continent, it has 12% of the world's oil reserves, 40% of its gold, 60% of underused arable land (arable means “suitable fro growing crops”), 65% of the world's diamonds, between 80 and 90% of its chromium and platinum.

The fact that only about 1% of the world's manufacturing occurs in Africa shows that there is a huge opportunity for growth. If factories were built in Africa, hopefully mostly by Africans, that would create many jobs for local populations. Africa would benefit by producing the locally needed manufactured goods and by exporting manufactured goods as well as raw resources.

One thing that prevents such a wonderful thing is that many African nations are unstable and are therefore risky places for investment. It is crucial that these nations become more democratic, less violent, more stable – places where people can generally count on the rule of law – and obviously for more reasons than for industrialization! If more nations can become as stable and prosperous as Botswana, there would be much more happiness in the world!

Also on this date:

Happy Inventions Day

Astronomer Edwin Hubble's birthday

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