We began the African Center for Economic Transformation (ACET) in 2008 with a central understanding – that Africa needs more than economic growth. Even as our continent makes steady economic gains, too many countries are not positioned to sustain their progress.
They continue to rely excessively on low-productivity agriculture for rural employment, and they have failed to develop strong manufacturing sectors. Exports are generally limited to a narrow range of agricultural commodities and natural resources, and businesses are difficult to open and operate, stifling the development of a vibrant private sector. Previous attempts to reform the situation through incremental poverty reduction backed by foreign aid have had limited success in addressing the underlying structural limitations facing most African economies.
Much of the well-intentional policy advice to African governments comes directly from bilateral and multilateral donors. The advice tends to reflect the donors’ priorities and assumptions while lacking a richer understanding of the local context. Even when the required reforms are appropriate, most African governments lack the capacity to implement them.
So when we formed ACET we called for a new approach to ensure that African countries could fundamentally reorient themselves and realize sustained economic transformation. We wanted to address some of the policy and institutional barriers that hampered sustained economic growth on the continent.