Trade & Industrial Policy Strategies (TIPS) will host its Annual Forum on Tuesday and Wednesday, 1-2 August 2023. The theme is Industrial Policy in an era of global structural change: Implications for Southern Africa.
Over the past 15 years, far-reaching structural changes have taken place that impact on how we approach industrial policy.
The global financial crisis shook financial markets and set off a multi-year recession and significant job losses, with a lasting impact on South Africa. International trade stagnated in constant dollar terms from 2010, in the biggest slowdown since World War II. At the same time, international financial markets increased lending to countries in the Global South, leaving them vulnerable later when the world economy contracted during the COVID-19 pandemic.
The climate emergency has begun to have devastating impacts across the globe, including deepening droughts and floods across Southern Africa. Efforts to internalise these costs nationally and internationally have placed immense pressure especially on energy systems, including the national grid and transport technologies, and are increasingly affecting trade regulations. These changes have taken place in conjunction with rapid and disruptive technological changes that threaten to strand older producers while opening new opportunities for growth.
The COVID-19 pandemic exacerbated an already fragile global economy. Among others, it challenged social protection systems, supply chains, fiscal policy and trust in national governments. The lingering consequences include extraordinary fiscal pressure on countries in the Global South, including South Africa, as well as the deepening slowdown in the Chinese economy, South Africa’s largest trading partner.
Growing rivalry between major economies in the context of tighter international markets and slower growth has brought new barriers to trade and investment. The Russian invasion of Ukraine underscored the risks from rising international tensions. It has led to wild speculation in some international markets as well as very real disruptions to critical supply chains.
These developments have heightened the need for African countries to strengthen their economies through industrial policy and to improve continental trade arrangements. The African Continental Free Trade Area (AfCFTA) negotiations symbolised the overwhelming pressure to respond to new realities.
The global slowdown in the 2010s was mirrored in slow domestic growth for most of the decade. At the same time, South Africa continued to face unusually deep inequality and high joblessness. The impacts have been compounded by increasing policy contestation and protests as well as struggling state-owned companies and the fragility of the national grid.
For industrial policy, the question is how to respond effectively to the profound shifts in national and international realities. By definition, industrial policy cannot be one size fits all. Rather, it must adapt to current realities based on the available evidence – a particular urgent and difficult task in the midst of the far-reaching structural changes now seen worldwide. Policy-oriented research is required to better understand the political-economy impacts, the socioeconomic costs to society, and the interventions that will best fit the unique circumstances of African economies and their communities.
The TIPS 2023 Forum will bring together academics, policymakers, civil society organisations, workers and practitioners to discuss these issues and share ideas on the way forward.
TIPS is partnering with, and receiving financial support for the Forum from, the DSI/NRF South African Research Chair in Industrial Development (SARChI) based at the University of Johannesburg. The Forum will be undertaken in association with the Department of Trade Industry and Competition (the dtic).
The Forum is platform for researchers, policymakers and other stakeholders to present research and engage in dialogue on policy-relevant issues. The Forums have overarching themes and have been running since 1997. For details of past Forums and copies of research presented go to Forum Papers.