This article surveys Africa's industrial, and especially manufacturing performance over the last four decades and reviews explanations for that performance which relate to issues of structure and class; structural adjustment policies; exports, technology, finance, and transactions costs. The article considers the extent to which manufacturing success is related to increasing exports and concludes with some consideration of future policy in the wake of the recently published report by the Commission for Africa. A strong role for the state is considered to be essential for successful growth in the future, both as substitute for a non-existent domestic capitalist class, and as planner and director of manufacturing industrialization.