Special Economic Zones in Africa: Comparing Performance and Learning from Global Experience

Economic zones have grown rapidly in the past 20 years. In 1986, the International Labor Organization's (ILO's) database reported 176 zones in 47 countries; by 2006, it reported 3,500 zones in 130 countries. This huge growth occurred despite many zones having failed to meet their objectives; however, many others are contributing significantly to growth in foreign direct investment (FDI), exports, and employment, as well as playing a catalytic role in integration into global trade and structural transformation, including industrialization and upgrading. This study aims to address some of these questions and deliver an analysis that is both data-driven and policy-focused. The objective of the study is to explore the experience of zone programs, with a particular focus on Sub-Saharan Africa, to understand the factors that contribute to static and dynamic outcomes. It aims to provide input to the question of whether and how zones can make a significant contribution to job creation, diversification, and sustainable growth in African and other low-income countries.