Friday, April 13, 2012

Is Africa The Next China?

A cell phone factory in Ethiopia.  A packager in Capetown.  Just two examples, but there's growing numbers of cases of manufacturing previously likely to be done in China, instead moving to Africa.

I first heard the concept at a IEDC Conference in January 2012.  John Kaliski of Cambridge Systematics pointed out the logistical advantages of shipping overseas from Africa as one of the reasons he posed the question, "Is Africa the next alternative to China?"

With the improvements to East Coast ports of entry, Africa is no less an option for East Coast shipping than China is to our West Coast.

A Joel Kotkin-esque look at demographics doesn't rule out the concept either.  See a blog posting at Weeks Population for a report on the lower media age and potential doubling of population in Africa.

China's shrinking workforce-aged population and the fact that its heading toward a demographics-predicted decline in population stands in sharp contrast.

Right now, it may sound a bit absurd to think of places that for the past 30 years were the subject of hunger causes and Apartheid issues as competition for the U.S.'s manufacturing capacity.  Who thought about China in that way though 30 years ago?

Reshoring of manufacturing away from China and back to the U.S. could face some competition.  All the more reason for a national manufacturing policy that prepares us to compete better.

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