The development of the manufacturing sector, across the world, has been closely linked to the path to the industrialisation of a country. While the West has enjoyed over 200 years of industrial production and is now fully embracing what many refer to as the 4th Industrial Revolution - i.e. that of connectivity, advanced manufacturing, and digital transformation - Asian countries, spearheaded by Japan and China, have only entered the race since the 1950s. African economies, however, despite experiencing double-digit growth for decades, have been lagging behind global standard when it comes to manufacturing capacity.
Extensive capital expenses make it hard for small businesses to enter global competition, especially in light of the increasing imports of cheap hardware, from laptops to mobile phones, vehicles and data centres, as well as world-class industrial machinery from China, Japan, and Europe. Most importantly, while countries like Ethiopia and Ghana have begun being seen as future manufacturing hubs, China and Southeast Asia remain the go-to destinations for the outsourced production of leading US and European brands across all sectors. The startup landscape for technology for manufacturing remains extremely nascent, although robotics and additive manufacturing companies have appeared in countries like South Africa, Kenya, and Nigeria.
On a more reduced scale, innovation hubs and universities have been allocating resources to building manufacturing labs, mainly equipped with basic low hardware tools and small scale 3D printing machines.