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Light Manufacturing In Africa: A Budding Industry With Considerable Opportunity


Photo by Spencer Davis on Unsplash

“No country in the world has developed without producing light manufacturing. And no country can skip it.”- Hinh Dinh, World Bank Economist.

Substantial opportunity and the potential exists within the light manufacturing industry in Africa. This type of manufacturing can enable the continent to industrialize at a level that can sustain jobs and still produce a significant share of our goods.

While government regulations on trade and manufacturing sometimes may keep the continent’s industry leaders from reaching their potential, Africa is joining a renewed industrial revolution.

The industrial world of the West generates a large number of well-paid jobs and connects many sectors of business while also increasing the supply of consumer products distributed all around the world.

With light manufacturing requiring a low investment of overall capital and providing significant growth opportunities, the industry is a heavyweight in many developing economies.

Overview of Light Manufacturing

When you think of the manufacturing industry, you may envision enormous industrial plants packed with massive machinery. For the heavy manufacturing industry, this vision is accurate. However, a different industry, one with lower environmental impact and lower reliance on heavy machinery, invokes a brighter image.

Heavy manufacturing transforms raw materials into large products used by other sellers later in the supply chain. By comparative advantage, light manufacturing produces small, high-value items destined for direct sale to consumers or to smaller retailers and rarely ever exported.

This industry includes sectors in the production of food, clothing, electronics, paper, medications, wood and wood products, and fabricated metal products. Consumers use these products regularly, so the light industry requires quick and constant output.

Because it is less reliant on large plants and requires less capital investment for production and exportation, the light manufacturing industry is democratically dispersed throughout cities and towns of countries.

The status of Light Manufacturing In Africa

Though the manufacturing industry in Africa saw growth before the 1980s, shocking changes in the economy, especially after the COVID-19 pandemic, led to a decline.

Even so many in the African population usually work in the informal and Juakali sector. Until recently, Africa’s manufacturing industry suffered from heavy competition from imported products and low gross domestic product.

Despite these trends, some countries enjoy benefits from the light industry, including rising wages. Although manufacturers must still make efforts at expansion, connectivity, and infrastructure, the continent’s manufacturing production continues to increase.

In addition, significant advancements in Sub-Saharan Africa continue to develop, shifting economies from mineral-based sectors to consumer and service sectors.

For instance, light manufacturing efforts in developing countries such as Ethiopia, Kenya, Uganda, and Nigeria are on the rise, particularly in the production of food and beverages, packaged goods, fabrics, and furniture.

Benefits of light manufacturing

Unlike heavy manufacturing, light manufacturing activities do not require heavy machinery or sizable amounts of raw material.

Thus, they consume less energy and minimize the environmental impact. These characteristics make light manufacturing possible in and around cities and residential areas.

Light manufacturing does not require large areas of land for huge facilities. This results in a decreased need for power, equipment, and materials, making this industry less capital intensive. As an added benefit, the industry’s direct-to-consumer aspect makes it specifically designed for buyers.

In Africa, these benefits are of considerable value.

The light industry is labor-intensive because of high-demand production, so it contributes to job creation.

Increased job creation makes long-term investments in skills training and education necessary for developing Africa’s manufacturing capabilities.

Africa’s budding industrialism

Regardless of restrictions by governments, there is great potential and opportunity for light manufacturing in Africa. Economists expect spending and investment in the industry to increase with the food and beverage sector leading the charge and contributing to a substantial percentage of manufactured goods in the continent.

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