Structural transformation

Structural transformation involves the movement of workers from low-productivity sectors (such as agriculture), to high-productivity (industrial, urban-based) sectors, leading to job creation, improved labour productivity and poverty reduction.

In much of Africa, urbanisation has taken place without structural transformation, leaving high numbers of city dwellers trapped in low-productivity informal employment. To create growth and reduce poverty, it is therefore essential to disentangle the connections between cities and structural change.

ACRC will look at how key city systems – including urban planning, infrastructural service provision (such as transport, energy, water and waste management), productivity-enhancing policies and regulatory frameworks, and educational and technology accumulation strategies – need to be pulled together to facilitate structural transformation. Our approach considers how the political economy of cities affects the potential for structural transformation. Success requires ruling elites to commit to investing in the public infrastructure necessary for firms to operate productively, and to building productive state–business relations. This can stand in tension with the incentives to extract rents from firms and household enterprises and to enter into collusive relationships, such as offering subsidies and contracts in return for political and personal financing.

Within the structural transformation domain, we are focusing on the following cities: