Forum 2021: Reconstruction and Recovery - Rethinking Inclusive Industrialisation in Response to COVID-19

The COVID-19 pandemic has resulted in a slowdown in international trade, and disrupted global supply chains and the organisation of work. In addition, pre-existing inequalities and structural constraints on growth have been exacerbated. Economic policy interventions that have been implemented in response to the pandemic have highlighted pre-existing tensions between key economic players across the globe. This context brings new challenges, opportunities and imperatives for industrial policy, in South Africa, the region and internationally. The Forum seeks to provide a platform for key economic policy players to collectively reflect on the socio-economic challenges brought by the COVID-19 pandemic, unpack the basic assumptions embedded within approaches to industrial policy within the South African and regional context, and explore opportunities and prospects for economic recovery and reconstruction.

It is being held in partnership with the South African Research Chair in Industrial Development (SARChI) at the University of Johannesburg, and in association with the Department of Trade, Industry and Competition (the dtic).  

The Forum will be held online.



Dealing with the crisis before the crisis requires economic reconstruction

Rethinking industrialisation in response to COVID-19

Context for the conference

Economic recovery since the 2008/09 financial crisis, across countries and within economies, has been uneven. South Africa has experienced relatively stagnant GDP growth and uneven patterns of growth across and within its sectors, as well as high levels of inequality and unemployment, with the absorption rate well below that of other upper-middle-income countries. In addition, participation in the South African economy continues to be shaped by race, gender, class and geographical location. The impact of COVID-19 is likely to result in severe shifts in the global and domestic political economy and likely to deepen pre-existing structural constraints on growth in the medium to long term.   

The impact of COVID-19 on South Africa’s trading partners is likely to result in long-term subdued foreign demand for South African goods and services. Traditional pathways to industrialisation, i.e. the dynamics and processes of external and domestic linkages that facilitate structural change, are being challenged. In this context, debates related to the appropriate application of specific industrial policy tools which aim to facilitate transformative structural change, have resurfaced.

Assessing and addressing the impact of the pandemic on African economies and societies is necessary to inform and tailor the appropriate responses of African governments to facilitate economic recovery, while expanding access for the most vulnerable groups in society to participate in the economy.

African governments have implemented stimulus packages, containment measures and other necessary restrictions to limit the spread of the virus and to sustain and balance the economy. The implementation of public policy measures, in response to the pandemic, has triggered questions about the systemic resilience of global and domestic value chains, as well as renewed interest in advocating for the diversification and localisation of production and shorter supply chains in certain sectors that can adapt in times of crisis.

The recovery will require mobilising efforts between public, private, national and regional leaders across a number of key areas. The 2021 Forum will explore these issues and bring together academics, policymakers and practitioners involved in the various aspects of regional industrial development. The aim is to deepen the understanding of a cross-section of issues, and the related opportunities and challenges.