The Human Sciences Research Council (HSRC) has been awarded a grant by the United Nations University (UNU) to investigate the catalytic role of tradable services in Southern Africa’s growth and development.
The study will be led by Professor Ivan Turok and Dr Justin Visagie, and will look at how know-how and technical capabilities can boost Southern Africa’s prosperity through shared expertise, mutual learning and practical support for investment in economic development and urban infrastructure.
Through Agenda 2063 and related plans, the African Union has highlighted the need to accelerate industrialisation throughout the continent in order to eliminate poverty and underdevelopment.
Knowledge-intensive services can add enormous value to traditional mining, agriculture and manufacturing sectors by upgrading their products and improving their processes.
The recent signing of the African Continental Free Trade Area agreement indicated a commitment to boosting trade and deepening regional integration in the context of looming global trade wars and rising protectionism.
Observers such as the World Bank have long identified weak integration of African economies into global and regional value chains as a constraint to growth and job creation.
At a time of major technological disruption, commonly referred to as the Fourth Industrial Revolution, it is particularly important for businesses and governments to invest in human capital and to share their expertise. Specialised knowledge and technical capabilities can enhance competitiveness, spur industrialisation and raise living standards.
The study will investigate the detailed flows of service-related imports and exports within the sub-continent. In-depth interviews will also be undertaken with senior executives in business and industry associations to explore the opportunities and obstacles facing increased trade in knowledge-intensive services.
It is envisaged that the outcomes of this study will include a series of recommendations to support accelerated trade and industrialisation across Africa through improved access to know-how and professional expertise.
The study is funded by the UNU World Institute for Development Economics Research in collaboration with the National Treasury and the Department of Trade and Industry.
It is part of a programme of research aimed at supporting regional growth and development in Southern Africa.