“Special Economic Zones, Catalysts of African Industrialization”


The AFRICA CEO FORUM announces the publication of an analysis and recommendations report on Special  Economic Zones (SEZs) in Africa, in partnership with OKAN PARTNERS (strategy and finance consulting firm  dedicated to Africa). 

Establishing an attractive framework for investment, maximizing social impact, and supporting local  competitiveness in an era of globalization: these are the key issues in preparing Africa for tomorrow’s world.  Despite remarkable successes, notably in China, African Special Economic Zones have not succeeded in  industrializing the continent to date.  

Based on nearly 20 case studies, from Tangier in Morocco to Mauritius, including Hawassa in Ethiopia, Lekki in  Nigeria, Nkok in Gabon, and the “three borders” SEZs in Cameroon, the report presents six pragmatic and  ambitious recommendations for investors and business owners. 


It is estimated that SEZs (geographical zones that benefit from tax and customs incentives and simplified  administrative procedures) have helped boost 20% of exports in developing countries* and create 100 million  jobs in total. These zones are recognized for offering an attractive framework for foreign investment and  encouraging the creation and strengthening of public and private industrial projects.  

In Morocco, Mauritius, Madagascar, Ethiopia and Gabon, SEZs have created more than 300,000 jobs and  contributed significantly to the dynamism of exports. Since 1970, 237 SEZs have been established across Africa,  including 61 in Kenya, 38 in Nigeria, and 18 in Ethiopia. Today, almost every African country has at least one SEZ. The continent has two important comparative advantages:  

  • strong cost competitiveness on wages, 
  • advantageous trade agreements with the main markets (United States, European Union It offers a unique opportunity for its industrialization and development. 


That said, many companies located in African SEZs suffer from the quality of infrastructure and services offered  within the zone and success is not assured. 

*Source UNCTAD

By drawing lessons from both failures and successes, the objective of this report is to assist decision-makers  and investors by making recommendations for the emergence of a new SEZ model, a catalyst for the  industrialization of the continent. 


Choosing a suitable location with an abundant and qualified labor pool, for example, to fit into the national  industrial strategy by meeting specific needs from relevant priority sectors of activity, creating a regulatory and  fiscal framework that is adapted and attractive thanks to a unique window and targeting sustainable  industrialization from the outset are all concrete recommendations to prepare Africa and its economic leaders  for the emerging environment and the challenges posed by a new global economic order (fight against climate  change, reorganization of global value chains or accelerated digitalization … ) 

“The publication of these strategic recommendations echoes the reason for being of the AFRICA CEO FORUM: to  foster the growth of conquering continental champions and a private sector that is aware of its responsibilities  in the service of an Africa that is asserting itself on the international scene and of the continent’s major  development challenges,” comments Amir Ben Yahmed, Founder and President of the AFRICA CEO FORUM.

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