ABIDJAN, Ivory Coast — Europe’s Industrial Revolution spurred unprecedented technological and economic progress. It also inflicted a tremendous human cost. Millions of workers toiled in dangerous conditions. The same would hold true some two centuries later in East Asia, where explosive industrial growth was coupled with sweatshops and child labor.
Now African leaders are plotting their own era of mass industrialization. In the Ivorian capital Abidjan this week, delegates from across the continent and beyond gathered for a six-day conference themed, “Industrialization for an Emerging Africa.” A high-powered panel of speakers declared Africa primed to take off as the new “workbench of the world.”
“Industrialization cannot be considered a luxury but a necessity for the continent’s development,” said Nkosazana Dlamini Zuma, the new head of the African Union Commission.