Can Africa compete against China in manufacturing?

Public lecture with
Professor Ahmadou Aly Mbaye of the University Cheikh Anta Diop in Dakar, Senegal,
on “Can Africa compete against China in manufacturing?”

Date: Thursday, November 5, 2015, 1:30 – 3:30 p.m.
Venue: Center for Development Research (ZEF), Walter-Flex-Straße 3, 53113 Bonn (see map), right conference room, ground floor.
The session is chaired by ZEF-director Joachim von Braun

Abstract: The lecture is based on a paper (download here) examining Sub-Saharan Africa’s (SSA) bilateral trade and cost competitiveness with China. Patterns of bilateral trade between SSA and China are reviewed, showing an extraordinary imbalance in the structure of trade in that China overwhelmingly exports manufactured products to SSA and almost exclusively imports primary products in return. Our principal means of assessing the competitiveness of SSA’s manufacturing sector vis-à-vis China are measures of relative unit labor costs (RULC). We find that African RULC levels have generally been very high relative to China, but declined over the 2000s as China’s wages have risen faster than Chinese productivity while the reverse is true for the SSA countries in our sample. Nevertheless,

RULC vis-à-vis China remained elevated for many SSA countries as of 2010. Generally high RULC along with weaknesses in the business climate suggest that most SSA countries are unlikely to be competitive in labor-intensive manufacturing any time soon.

About the speaker: Dr. Ahmadou Aly Mbaye is a Professor of Economics at the University Cheikh Anta Diop (UCAD) in Dakar, Senegal. Until recently he has served as Dean of the Faculty of Economics and Management at UCAD. He holds a doctorate in Development Economics from the University of Clermont-Ferrand, France, and has had several international academic positions in recent years, including as a Fulbright Professor at Swarthmore and George Washington University, a Cornell visiting professor at Swarthmore College, and a research visiting scholar at the research department of the World Bank. He has written several publications in the area of development economics, and on West Africa, especially Senegal. He has also served as a consultant for many international organizations such as the United Nations Conference on Trade and Development (UNCTAD), World Trade Organization (WTO), the Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations (FAO), the World Bank, the United Nations Economic Commission for Africa (UNECA), West African Economic and Monetary Union (WAEMU), and the Senegalese Government.


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