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Growth with depth: exploring African Transformation

Time (GMT +01) 14:00 16:00

KY Amoako - President, African Center for Economic Transformation, and Member, Commision for Africa


Kevin Watkins - Director, ODI


Yaw Ansu - lead author, African Transformation Report 2014

David Booth - Research Fellow, Politics and Governance, ODI

Tony Burdon - Head of Growth and Resilience, DFID

Mavis Owusu-Gyamfi - Director, Programme Policy and Quality, Save the Children 

Dirk Willem te Velde - Head of Programme, International Economic Development Group, ODI

​Kevin Watkins chaired the event. He introduced the discussion by asking ‘how do you convert growth into poverty reduction and job creations for Africa?’ KY Amoako, the President of ACET, then introduced the organisation and the report, which was created through collaboration with 15 think tanks across Africa.

Yaw Ansu, Chief Economist at ACET then introduced the 2014 African Transformation Report.

The report defines economic transformation as growth with DEPTH:

1.     Diversification of economic production and exports

2.     Export competitiveness

3.     Productivity increases

4.     Technology upgrading

5.     Human wellbeing improvements

The report introduces the African Transformation Index, which monitors progress in DEPTH in African countries. The five DEPTH measures are below average for sub-Saharan African countries compared with eight earlier transformers (Brazil, Chile, Indonesia, Malaysia, Singapore, South Korea, Thailand and Vietnam). The report also provides specific recommendations for engaging the private sector, promoting exports, building technical knowledge and skills, and regional integration measures for economic transformation.

Panel discussants

Tony Burdon – Head of Growth and Resilience, Department for International Development:

·      It is useful to have indicators that can be applied at a country level

·      More emphasis should be on gender dynamics in economic transformation

·      Creating the right business environment and investment in infrastructure are necessary for Africa

·      One of the largest challenges remains governance and short political cycles

·      The report makes only a few mentions of gender – will this be a strong feature of a future report on agriculture?

David Booth – Research Fellow, Politics and Governance, ODI

·      Manufacturing growth needs to be labour intensive to absorb agricultural labourers that lose out from technological productivity increases

·      Key determinant for integrating into global economy is investment in infrastructure, skills and an abundant supply of wage goods

·      Political and governance successes need to be documented for best practice

Mavis Owusu-Gyamfi – Director, Programme Policy and Quality, Save the Children

·      The human capital challenge needs to be unpacked for African countries

·      More consideration needs to be given to the role of religion and ethnicity

·      There are two disparate Africas: the middle-class state versus the poor and fragile state – we need to consider how their economic pathways will differ

Dirk Willem te Velde – Head of Programme, International Economic Development Group, ODI

·      The report is an important contribution to the post-2015 development process

·      Chapter 2 on state-business relations (SBRs) is good. The example of Mauritius illustrates the importance of consensus building through effective SBRs.

·      There is a need for more nuances within countries. The Botswana Accountancy College is a good example of public private partnership, but the International Financial Centre less so.

·      The needs to be more emphasis on the role of the financial sector in supporting economic transformation.

Participant comments

Participants commented on recommendations that need to be put to donors to promote economic transformation, and the role of institutions, industry and services in the transformation. The segments of government and the private sector targeted for transformation is also important. More emphasis needs to be placed on external barriers that need to be addressed, and the importance of regional integration and engaging with environmental impacts in transformation.

Finally, the High Commissioner for Ghana stressed the importance of leadership to tackle impediments to national development strategies and the need to garner political support.

Panel responses and conclusions

The panel acknowledged the importance of national governments working together with business and civil society organisations to develop a clear national strategy for economic transformation. In order to deliver on economic transformation strong leadership is required to ensure consistency and coordination, however this remains one of the key missing elements in Africa.

It is politically difficult to talk about winners and losers, which will be inevitable in restructuring and economic transformation. The panellists agreed various elements will be essential to economic transformation (or productivity increases) including regional integration, trade facilitation, capacity building and strengthening institutions, and mobilising political support around national development agendas.


ODI and the DFID-ESRC Growth Research Programme (DEGRP) hosts KY Amoako, president of the African Center for Economic Transformation (ACET) and former executive secretary of the Economic Commission for Africa, to launch the 2014 African Transformation Report. The report argues that Africa's economies need more than growth - if they are to transform they need growth with depth: to Diversify their production, make their Exports competitive, increase the Productivity of farms, firms, and government offices, and upgrade the Technology they use throughout the economy—all to improve Human well-being.

The 2014 African Transformation Report draws on ACET’s research program of country, sector, and thematic studies to look systematically at transformation as a broad framework for economic growth and development. It  introduces the African Transformation Index to help African policy-makers see how their countries are transforming and where they stand in relation to their neighbours.

DEGRP  funds world class scientific research on issues relating to inclusive economic growth in Low Income Countries (LICs), with a high potential for impact on policy and practice.

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