Discussion paper

DP12073 Sub-Saharan Africa’s Manufacturing Sector: Building Complexity

As Africa’s working age population continues to grow rapidly, the region needs to experience both economic growth and high levels of job creation before it can realize the demographic dividend. This paper uses economic complexity analytics to provide product-level insights into sub-Saharan Africa’s development path in comparison with that of the Eastern and Southern Asian regions. Specific emphasis is placed on the evolution of the manufacturing sector within these regions. The analysis from this study shows a sub-Saharan African (SSA) productive structure that is disconnected and characterized by products with low levels of economic complexity. The study further shows that the productive structure in SSA is inherently characterized by lower levels of economic complexity, which informed the notion of limited productive capabilities. This stands in contrast to the East and South Asian productive structure, which is connected and complex. This result implies that while the sheer scale and diversity of the manufacturing sector in Asia allows for the generation of a large number and diversity of employment opportunities that of the African manufacturing sector is marginal in nature and points to limited employment opportunities.


Kanbur, R (2017), ‘DP12073 Sub-Saharan Africa’s Manufacturing Sector: Building Complexity‘, CEPR Discussion Paper No. 12073. CEPR Press, Paris & London. https://cepr.org/publications/dp12073