In recent years Ethiopia has emerged as the only sub-Saharan country on the classic manufacturing track, with huge new industrial parks mostly serving clothing exporters. It’s tempting to say the rest of Africa should just copy them. But other African countries are already littered with half-empty industrial sites that provide little in the way of economic development or jobs. SA’s own special economic zones have enticed a range of projects, but their growth does not approach Ethiopia’s. SA still exports six times as much clothing as Ethiopia in dollar terms. But Ethiopia has developed its industry from virtually nothing. In the past 20 years SA’s exports doubled, but its share in global garment exports dropped from 0.12% to 0.10%, with essentially no growth in employment numbers. Meanwhile, Ethiopia’s share in global exports rose from none to 0.2% and its clothing employment is nearing 100,000. More important than Ethiopia’s policies were its economic history and location. Above al...

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