Industrial Policy and State coordination – the case of post-apartheid South Africa
The period since the end of apartheid has witnessed a reduction in the share of manufacturing in the economy of South Africa, Africa’s most industrialized economy. This trend has taken place despite the government’s declared commitment to industrialization, and comes on the back of a number of coordination failures that have hampered the effectiveness of existing industrial policy.
By 1996, three different government departments had published conflicting economic policy frameworks, all of which were eventually dropped : the National Growth Path Framework, developed by the Reconstruction and Development Planning office of the Presidency; a social plan produced by the Labour Department’s Presidential Labour Market Commission; and the Treasury’s Growth, Employment and Redistribution (GEAR) strategy. The National Treasury also opposed the industrial policy plans of the Department for Trade and Industry (DTI), as they were contrary to ‘picking winners’.
Similarly, the National Industrial Policy Framework adopted by the government in 2007 was rendered ineffectual by a lack of budgetary support – as funding for DTI programmes declined from 1994 onwards – and inconsistency with macroeconomic policies focused on targeting inflation, ignoring the problems caused by oscillations in relative prices . More generally, industrial policy in South Africa has been marked by fragmentation. For instance, Hausmann, Rodrik and Sabel describe the DTI’s Customized Sector Programs (CSP) as “a collection of very disparate industrial policy initiatives grouped under a common rubric.” Moreover, there is little coordination between DTI programmes and other government departments, despite official rhetoric in favour of industrialization.
At the roots of the coordination problems of industrial policy in South Africa is the fragmentation of the ruling party, its focus on other issues, and capture by special interests such as organized labour and the ‘mineral-energy complex’. These translate into policies that continue to favour the mining sector. In addition, labour and large business interests effectively are in a rent-sharing agreement that keeps high wages for insiders, inhibits employment creation, and hampers investment in manufacturing.
 Haroot, Bhorat, Aalia Cassim and Alan Hirsch (2014) – “Policy co-ordination and growth traps in a middle-income country setting: the case of South Africa” WIDER Working Paper 2014/155
 Simon Roberts (2014) – “Industrialization Strategy” in Haroon Bhorat, Alan Hirsch, Ravi Kanbur and Mthuli Ncube, The Oxford Companion to the Economics of South Africa Oxford: Oxford University Press
Ricardo Hausmann, Dani Rodrik and Charles F. Sabel (2007) – “Reconfiguring Industrial Policy: A Framework with an Application to South Africa”