The goal of economic transformation raises the stakes for policy-making in Africa. Achieving a pattern of economic growth where productivity, export competitiveness and employment are continuously increased is not just a matter of agreeing a higher level of ambition. It calls for an active search for solutions to numerous specific problems currently blocking or delaying needed investments. Underlying each of those particular challenges, moreover, is a deeper and more general issue: how to establish a strategic relationship between government and private sector actors that makes it possible to address these problems without repeating the errors that derailed transformational ventures in the past.
Reviewing global experience, the roles of state and private enterprises, of large and small firms and of formal or informal business associations have been very different among countries. The successful models have in common, however, that they have been able to satisfy a small number of basic requirements that appear universally relevant. This finding seems to be reinforced, in both positive and negative ways, by Africa’s so far limited success in constructing more transformation-friendly state–business relations.
This paper was produced in collaboration with the African Center for Economic Transformation as a background paper for the African Transformation Forum in Kigali, Rwanda on 14-15 March 2016.