Library Header Image
LSE Research Online LSE Library Services

The challenge of developing Special Economic Zones in Africa: evidence and lessons learnt

Frick, Susanne, Bolwijn, Richard, Santos-Paulino, Amelia U and Rodríguez-Pose, Andrés ORCID: 0000-0002-8041-0856 (2022) The challenge of developing Special Economic Zones in Africa: evidence and lessons learnt. Regional Science Policy & Practice, 14 (2). pp. 456-481. ISSN 1757-7802

[img] Text (Region Sci Policy Practice - 2022 - Rodr guez‐Pose - The challenge of developing special economic zones in Africa Evidence) - Published Version
Available under License Creative Commons Attribution.

Download (1MB)


Special economic zones (SEZs) are mushrooming across the developing world. Increasingly, policymakers resort to zones with the aim of turning around their countries’ economic fortunes. Zones are expected to deliver greater innovation, exports, knowledge and technological spillovers. Yet, little is known about the state of play of SEZs in Africa, where almost half of SEZ programmes are less than 10 years old. The recent proliferation of SEZs in the continent has rendered the need to ensure that SEZs deliver on their objectives more impelling, given the often non-negligible opportunity costs associated with SEZ development. This article addresses this knowledge gap and sheds light on African SEZ practices. The analysis of a novel dataset highlights that (i) African SEZs are on a steep upward trend and are changing in nature; (ii) the ability of African SEZs to attract industrial activity, proxied by firms, and generate employment remains limited; and (iii) African SEZ governance policies (over)rely on fiscal incentives and performance requirements. Case studies from Ethiopia, Morocco and South Africa suggest that those African SEZ programmes that have a well-targeted strategic focus, promote institutional collaboration and take a proactive approach to create linkages with the local economy are more likely to succeed.

Item Type: Article
Divisions: Geography & Environment
Date Deposited: 13 Apr 2022 16:42
Last Modified: 15 Sep 2023 17:08

Actions (login required)

View Item View Item


Downloads per month over past year

View more statistics