Accepted paper:

Infrastructure projects and sustainable industrialisation: renewable electrification projects in Africa


Rebecca Hanlin (African Centre for Technology Studies)
Rasmus Lema (Department of Business and Management)

Paper short abstract:

The paper considers the potential of renewable infrastructure projects to create opportunities for sustainable industrialisation through building long term capabilities relevant across multiple sectors.

Paper long abstract:

After several decades in the shadows, industrialisation strategy and industrial policy are back-on the agenda. In development, this means that ideas of classical development economists are being dusted off; including the centrality of development 'projects' and notably their linkage effects. The resurgence of industrial policy coincides with a globally pervasive sustainability agenda which combines into the SDG notion of sustainable industrialisation. This attention coincides with findings from a project we are managing ( considering Kenyan renewable electrification (solar and wind) projects and capabilities building. Our findings so far highlight: (1) Despite initial expectations that external engineering capabilities would be used by foreign firms, significant local expertise is available and is being used; with the potential for more opportunities for these engineers in the future. Work in other fields highlights how providing workers with an initial opportunity provides them with a spring board for other opportunities and builds the human capital of the country. (2) Local job creation is, on the other hand, hampered by the path dependency and lock-in of certain technologies (notably the dominance of solar PV technology over wind turbines) which has resulted in small wind manufacturers indigenous to Kenya closing down. (3) Renewable electrification occurs through projects that provide the starting point for upscaling. We contend that more work in this area is needed but that it highlights the importance of directive policy instruments in Kenya and potentially elsewhere in Africa as well.

panel Econ28
Building and connecting Africa: Infrastructure construction and economic development in the XXIst century