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What are the Special Economic Zones in Africa?

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Luis Monzon
Luis Monzon
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In 1970, the Republic of Mauritius passed its SEZs and EPZ Acts. SEZs were subsequently established in Ghana and Senegal. During the 1990s, several African countries aimed to emulate the economic boom of East Asia. [UNCTAD] There are around 230 SEZs and 200 EEZs spread over Africa. Kenya has 61 special economic zones, the most of any country in the world. In addition, both Nigeria and Ethiopia are home to many special economic zones. [UNCTAD]

The manufacturing and export of clothing and textiles are the primary economic focuses of African nations. Some countries place a high priority on the growth of sectors that add value. Automotive City in Tangier and the Atlantic Free Zone in Kenitra are two of the Special Economic Zones (SEZs) that Morocco plans to develop to fulfill its goal of attracting high-tech and automotive businesses.

In 2013, Kigali established the Kigali Special Economic Zone as a place for local and foreign firms to do business together. In just three short years, the zone would become home to the jobs of 2% of the nation’s total workforce. The Kigali Special Economic Zone does not offer tax breaks or incentives to zone-based firms. Businesses stand to benefit from a more streamlined regulatory framework, infrastructure that is upgraded, and trade facilitation efforts. African special economic zones are among the best in the world. It has been announced that Morocco, Mauritius, and Nigeria are among the Global Free Zones.

Africa’s lessons learned from China’s experience

As of 1978, China had approximately 2,500 special economic zones (SEZs). During the early stages of development, attention was placed on coastal cities like Shenzhen and Zhuhai, among others, to boost regional expansion. China developed zones to foster industrial development, facilitating open commerce, and processing exports.

To improve people’s standard of living and to create employment opportunities, China constructed SEZ projects in multiple regions. For instance, China’s early emphasis on manufacturing and retail absorbed a large pool of laborers who lacked specialized training. The emergence of China presents opportunities for Africa. To begin by using regional SEZ models rather than the ones in use. China has established Special Economic Zones (SEZs) that use the local labor force, manufacturing centers, and consumer markets.

China overcame challenges associated with labor force qualification, market demand, and other growth barriers by utilizing special economic zones (SEZs) to build its domestic industry within a constrained environment. The countries of Africa need to incorporate special economic zones (SEZs) into their plans for proper economic growth.

China made significant infrastructure development investments in SEZs. Infrastructures of all kinds, including energy, transportation, and others, are necessary.  The public-private partnership (PPP) model can assist African governments in overcoming monetary challenges and luring additional private investment.

SEZs need a local workforce that is equipped with the appropriate skills. By combining “smart” incentives related to local employment and training, Africa may benefit from special economic zones (SEZs) to improve the livelihoods and outcomes of its people who are of working age. It is also essential that there exist educational institutions and research facilities in the area. Sharing knowledge and the transfer of technology are two benefits that can accrue to African researchers and scientists due to the collaboration of local researchers with global investors.

Arise integrated industrial platforms (Arise IIP) is an excellent example of an institution that designs, develops, and maintains functional industrial ecosystems across Africa. They analyze the industrial landscape of African countries and devise individualized strategies to fill the resulting manufacturing voids. These strategies aim to boost trade and exports, as well as preserve and improve the environment.


Even if there are many obstacles, special economic zones (SEZs) have the potential to make a positive contribution to the growth of African states and the continent as a whole. Africa needs a comprehensive plan that looks far into the future to build special economic zones and realize the economic potential of those zones. SEZs are an essential element in the development of industry in several countries. For Africa to become industrialized and self-sufficient, the continent must maximize the potential offered by these zones.

By Staff Writer.

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