African countries could take a big step forward economically by participating more effectively in the global production of goods and services. That’s according to the latest African Economic Outlook, a report produced annually by the African Development Bank (AfDB), the OECD Development Centre and the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP).

While Africa’s exports to the rest of the world grew faster than those of any other region in 2012, it was dominated by primary commodities which accounted for only 3.5% of world merchandise. The report argues that this trend could be reversed by more effective involvement in regional and global value chains – the range of activities in different countries that bring a product from conception to delivery to the consumer – that could serve as a springboard for Africa in economic diversification, domestic resource mobilisation and investments in critical infrastructure. In order to do so, however, the continent needs to avoid getting stuck in low value-added activities.

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