Why is Africa still not globally competitive, and could it use attention economics to grow faster?

The OECD reported in March 2022 that Africa exports more primary products but lacks a competitive advantage in higher-value sectors. We discuss this issue with macroeconomist Charlie Robertson and explore ways for Africa to overcome barriers to growth, including building global brands around cultural exports.

“Africa is a resource-rich continent, specialising in fuel, mineral and agricultural exports… [It] exports proportionally more primary products than most other regions… However, African countries currently do not have a competitive advantage in any sectors [high up the value chain].”

This quote written by the OECD in a March 2022 report, is a depressing truth when we consider that many African states have been in this position since the continent’s independence era, during the 1950s and ‘60s.

In this episode we discuss this statement’s accuracy and the continent’s underlying barriers to growth, with renowned macroeconomist and author of the ‘Fastest Billion’ and ‘The Time Travelling Economist’, Charlie Robertson. Additionally, we speak through the usual decades-long macroeconomic stages of growth, and ponder whether building global brands centred on Africa’s growing cultural exports might enable its states to leapfrog them!

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