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Why Africa must learn from ‘Make In India’

In 2002, India’s Ministry of Tourism adopted ‘Incredible India’ as a slogan to promote tourism.
This was a deliberate effort to bring in more professionalism in the promotion of the country’s tourism sector. The campaign became successful and the phrase became synonymous with India.

This campaign carries a significant lesson for other countries. In 2014, this time under the new leadership of Narendra Modi, India came up with a new phrase, ‘Make in India’. This slogan befits India’s new strategic direction.

According to its website, the new national ‘initiative is designed to facilitate investment; foster innovation; enhance skill development; protect intellectual property, and build best-in-class manufacturing infrastructure.’ India is taking over from China as the factory of the world, manufacturing virtually everything while building her innovative capacity and attracting foreign direct investments (FDIs).

In 2015, the country received the equivalent of Kenya’s Gross Domestic Product, $63 billion in FDI. India may have taken lessons from many of the Newly Industrialized Countries of Asia that became industrialised through a similar strategy.

Today, they are global powerhouses for innovation with unmatched capacity in human resource.

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Many of the NICs started with economic reforms then later political reforms. It was beginning to appear as if India’s democracy was holding the country back.

Fortunately, it has paid off, setting the country into aggressively embarking on economic reforms. Today, India is among the fastest growing economies in the world. Of the Brics membership that India belongs to, only South Africa represents the African continent.

But South Africa has been a disappointment. Although a democracy, politics overshadows economic progress.

The story is similar in all other African countries. The lack of clarity on the strategic direction of Africa’s economies dampens any hope of low-end manufacturing that China is shading off to new destinations like India.

Doing nothing

Virtually every African country has an industrialisation policy and talks glowingly about it while doing nothing even where the opportunity knocks on the doors.

As China shades off 85 million manufacturing jobs in the next 10 years, the nations that will take these jobs must be ready to fight it out with India, which already has a head start. Although India is targeting virtually every manufacturing line, the country is putting more emphasis on electronics and has vowed to become the global electronic hub.

A report published by Grand View Research estimates the global consumer electronics market will be worth $838.85 billion (Sh84 trillion) by 2020.

For African nations to learn from India and share some of the spoils from China at this level and begin to experience rapid economic growth, she must strive to develop abundant skilled human resource, acquire adequate technology, build a sufficient domestic market and attract significant amount of FDI.

In FDI, countries will lock in availability of advanced technology, export markets and management skills. The ability of African states to attract foreign investors is imperative.

While this may sound easy to achieve, African countries have in the past shot themselves in the foot with retrogressive attitudes that undermine business for both local and foreign investors.

Often, government departments work at cross-purposes, to killing hopes of ever attracting greater FDI. At times, some countries weaken their case for FDI by evolving bad politics with the capacity to ruin everything.

Failed nation

In Kenya for example, ethnic disturbances of 2007/2008 impacted the country’s ability to attract FDI for a long time.

South Sudan’s prolonged civil war has virtually locked out FDI. Zimbabwe’s statist policies have turned what once was the breadbasket of Africa into a failed nation.

In Central Africa Republic, arbitrary actions of the government and the deteriorating law and order situation, hinders even the basic discussions of investment. Africa is simply the worst enemy of herself.

One would think that at least an economic bloc like the East African Community could lead Africa into taking a few of these jobs from India but Tanzania’s cantankerousness does not even allow a unified trade pact with the European Union.

Therefore, if anyone country wants to take advantage of the Chinese jobs, it has to go it alone even from a weaker position of the domestic market.

With or without moving forward as a united Africa to mount a competitive blitz on India, efforts to take advantage of the global business dynamics must be put forth. The opportunity is there to exploit.

The writer is an associate professor at the University of Nairobi’s School of Business.

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