Discovering East Africa's Industrial Opportunities
What are East Africa's industrial opportunities? In this article we explore this question by using the Product Space to study the productive structure of five south-east African countries: Kenya, Mozambique, Rwanda, Tanzania and Zambia. The Product Space is a network connecting products that tend to be exported by the same sets of countries. Since countries are more likely to develop products that are close by in the Product Space to the ones that they already produce, the Product Space can be used to help anticipate a country's industrial opportunities. Our results suggest that the most natural avenue for future product diversification for these five south-east African nations resides in the agricultural sector, since all of these nations appear to have productive structures that are pre-adapted to the production of many agricultural products that none of them are currently exporting. We conclude this paper by exploring the potential benefits of further regional economic integration by doing an exercise in which we pull together the productive structures of these five countries. This exercise shows that the products that become more accessible in the combined economy are once again predominantly agricultural. These results suggest that while diversification into all sectors should remain an important long-term goal of the region, the path towards increased diversification in the near future may well lie in a more empowered and diverse agricultural sector.
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