Supporting Economic Transformation: An Approach Paper

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Margaret McMillan, John Page, David Booth and Dirk Willem te Velde, March 2017

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As continuous and sometimes remarkably fast economic growth has become more usual in much of the developing world over recent decades, attention has shifted to the pattern and quality of that growth. Issues of concern include the persistence of extreme poverty in many countries, despite growth in gross domestic product, and the weak capacity of many sectors to produce sustained increases in employment. Much of recent growth in sub-Saharan African economies has been due to factors like buoyant urbanisation, and an expansion in the service economy that serves only the middle- and upper-classes. This pattern of growth is both highly skewed and non-inclusive. Another way to express this is that these economies are achieving growth without depth, or economic growth without economic transformation.

This approach paper seeks to define economic transformation, offers an approach to measuring progress towards it, and examines case studies from African and Asian economies where transformative policies have been successful to greater and lesser extents. The paper concludes by presenting a multi-disciplinary approach to identifying opportunities, diagnosing constraints and mapping out realistic policy options for countries to use to turn their economic growth into genuine transformation.

Photo credit: Dominic Chavez/World Bank, 2015


Economic transformation: the SET approach

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Credit: Overseas Development Institute