Having examined the various factors which contribute to the location of industrial districts, we shall now look at the major industrial regions of the world. It is no surprise that the greatest industrial areas are located in Western Europe and the United States of America, which benefited earliest from the Industrial Revolution about 200 years ago. There was abundant coal which provided the essential motive power needed in the workshops. Iron ore and other industrial metals were abundant as well as agricultural raw materials. Most of the early inventors came from here, e.g. Kay, who invented the flying-shuttle; Cartwright, the water-power loom: Hargreaves, the ‘spinning jenny’; Eli Whitney, the saw-gin; and James Watt, the steam engine. Greatly improved processes in the making of iron and steel were also developed during the nineteenth century. It was natural that their inventions would benefit their own regions first. With the growth of industries, communications were improved and the market was extended far and wide. Very soon, other countries also caught up with the idea of industrialization and many other industrial regions took shape in Russia, Japan, China, India and scattered areas in the southern continents.

Europe has several outstanding industrial areas, e.g. the Midlands, Lancashire, Yorkshire, London, Central Scotland and South Wales in Britain. In Europe, perhaps the most industrialized region is the Rhineland of Germany, centred on the Ruhr. Other areas are Paris and north-eastern France, the Sambre-Meuse Valley and the Kempenland in Belgium, Silesia in Poland, the Central Lakes district of Sweden, the Swiss Plateau and the Lombardy Plain of northern Italy. In Russia the industrial areas are more dispersed, but are nevertheless very significant. The Moscow-Gorki region is the best developed, followed by other areas where the rich deposits of coal, iron and other metallic ores have justified industrial development, the Urals, the Donetz-Krivoi Rog (Donbas) region and the Kuznetz-Karaganda (Kuzbas) region. They are linked by railways thousands of kilometres long.

In U.S.A. there are several large industrial areas, but they tend to congregate around the mid-Atlantic States (New York, Philadelphia and Baltimore) and the Lakeland region with such industrial cities as Pittsburgh, Chicago, Detroit, Duluth, Buffalo and Cleveland. The New England districts are noted for textiles and engineering. Other scattered areas are centred around Cincinnati, Indianapolis; St. Louis, Houston, San Francisco and Los Angeles. Canada’s industrial cities are Toronto, Hamilton and Montreal.

Of the industrial regions in Asia, the greatest and the most productive is that of southern Honshu, Japan. It is the great manufacturing belt that stretches along the south-eastern coast of Honshu from Hiroshima to Tokyo, including the industrial districts of Keihin (Tokyo-Yokohama), Hanshin (Osaka-Kobe-Kyoto) and Ise Bay (Nagoya). In China, distinctive industrial areas are few, the most important being Southern Manchuria, Wuhan (Wuchang, Hanyang and Hankow), Shanghai and Chungking. India has only one major industrial district in the Damodar Valley of north-east Deccan, centred on Jamshedpur, where there is an abundant supply of both coal and iron as well as other important ferro-metals. Elsewhere in the sub-continent there are only industries based on local raw materials, e.g. cotton textiles in Mumbai, jute-textiles in Calcutta and the manufacture of wool, silk and pottery in the Ganges Basin.

Large-scale manufacturing industries are scarce in the southern continents. Besides those of Sydney and Melbourne in south-east Australia, which have engineering and metallurgical industries, the other cities are concerned largely with mining or agricultural industries, for example meat-packing and wheat-milling in Buenos Aires, coffee processing in Sao Paulo; gold mining in Johannesburg, diamond mining in Kimberley and fruit canning in Cape Town. However, in South Africa, particularly, and also in South America the industrial base is being widened.


Some Selected Industrial Areas

1) The Ruhr-Westphalia Industrial District, Germany (Europe)

The great industrial belt of the Ruhr-Westphalia, bounded by the River Lippe in the north and the River Wupper in the south (both are tributaries of the Rhine), is the greatest industrial district of Germany.

The industrial conurbation, formed by a dozen industrial towns which have grown towards one another, occupies the Ruhr Valley itself from Duisburg to Dortmund. It is 72 km (45 miles) long by 24 km (15 miles) wide. Besides its specialized products, e.g. steel at Essen, cutlery in Solingen and Remscheid, silk and rayon textiles in Krefeld, chemicals in Wuppertal, almost every type of manufacture is made here. It has a combined population of well over 5 million people and is still expanding. What factors have contributed to its rapid growth?


(a) The greatest asset of the industrial region is the presence of the Ruhr Coalfield.

The coal is not only a ready item of export but also a great source of power. Both surface and concealed coal is mined, and the output reaches 120 million tonnes annually or 80 per cent of Germany’s total coal production. The Ruhr coal is unrivalled for coking.


b) The Ruhr Valley and Siegerland district (a little to the south) used to produce 70 percent of Germany’s total iron ore, and this was a key factor in the initiation of the region’s iron and steel industry.

However, local supplies have been exhausted and better-grade iron ores are now imported from Sweden through the Ems Canal and from the Lorraine iron fields in France. Limestones used in the smelting of iron and other ferro-metals are either available in the area or they are imported.


(c) The clear, soft water of the Rhineland streams is excellent for bleaching and dyeing purposes for the textiles industry in Krefeld and Wuppertal, where cotton, woollens, silk and rayon are manufactured.

It has also led to the growth of the chemicals and engineering industries in Wuppertal (the industrial conurbation of Barmen and Elberfield).


(d) The River Rhine, with a total length of 1280 km (800 miles), is the busiest and the most navigable waterway of Europe.

It provides the Rhineland-Westphalia industrial region with cheap access to the North Sea. There is also a veritable network of roads, autobahns (Germany’s dual-way auto-highways), railways and river-canals that assemble raw materials in the Ruhr and distribute the manufactured products to all parts of Germany, Europe and the world.


e) Skilled hands for the factories are readily available and many of the towns have specialized industries built up over many years, such as steel, cutlery, armaments, locomotives, machinery, chemicals, textiles and synthetic products. As a result German industrial products are of superior quality and are in demand everywhere.


(f) Despite wartime destruction, post-war reconstruction has been carried out at such a remarkable rate that most obsolete industrial plants now have been replaced by better and more modern ones.

Efficiency and overall productivity have greatly increased.


(g) Since Germany became a member of the European Economic Community (Common Market) in 1958, her trade has greatly expanded, and the Ruhr registered the greatest expansion, being the industrial heart of the Community.


2) The Pittsburgh-Lake Erie Industrial District, U.S.A (North America)

The region around Pittsburgh in Pennsylvania was the first of America’s major iron and steel districts.

Its excellent location between the Great Lakes and the Atlantic seaboard, together with its supplies of local raw materials and power, gave it an undoubted lead as America’s foremost industrial region. The rise of Pittsburgh as an iron and steel centre was meteoric, particularly after 1901, with the formation of gigantic United States Steel Corporation. It has now developed several subsidiary industrial centres nearer Lake Erie at Youngstown, Warren, Sharon, Wheeling, Cleveland and Akron (one of the world’s greatest rubber and tyre-making centres). Today Pittsburgh and its satellite towns account for almost a quarter of U.S.A’s total steel production. Pittsburgh city, with a population of 2½ million, is often looked upon as ‘the iron and steel capital of the world’. Iron and steel products form the basis of a host of secondary industries, e.g. engineering (mechanical, electrical and constructional), pottery, glassworks, chemicals, textiles and rubber. What factors have brought about this stupendous industrial development?

(a) Like the Ruhr, Pittsburgh’s industrial rise was mainly due to the availability of abundant coal in the Appalachian coalfields, where the thick seams of bituminous coal occurred in an almost horizontal and undisturbed state.

The nearby Connellsville coking coal is unexcelled for metallurgical purposes.


(b) When the industries first began in the second half of the nineteenth century, local iron ore was used in Pittsburgh.

When this was exhausted by 1884, much ore of the richer haematite type was brought from the Mesabi Range in the western Lake Superior region. Now with the gradual exhaustion of the lake Superior iron, steps have been taken to secure fresh supplies by way of the St. Lawrence Seaway from Burnt Creek, Schefferville, and other new mines in Labrador, Canada. This will ensure the continued industrial prosperity of the Pittsburgh area.


(c) The Allegheny Plateau, underneath which lies most of Pennsylvania’s coal, also has other mineral resources, including petroleum,natural gas and some ferro-metals. This has promoted the growth of industries such as engineering, chemicals and glass making.



(d) Besides coal, the steep Appalachian Mountains, with sufficient precipitation, have natural conditions for generating hydro-electric power.

A lot of coal is also burnt to obtain thermal electricity which replaces coal as the fuel for modern electric machinery.


(e) Pittsburgh city is centrally located at the point where the rivers Allegheny and Monongahela join the main Ohio River.

These rivers afford cheap water transport from the coalfields to the markets of the Midwest, and valley routes to the Atlantic coast. The topography favours convergence at Pittsburgh, and the region has greater locational advantages than some of the lakeside sites. Coal, coke and finished steel products move north towards the Great Lakes while shipments of iron ore come from Lake Superior and Labrador. This two-way transport on the Great Lakes- St. Lawrence waterways, together with the advantageous east-west trans-American railway and road networks, allows the region to enjoy low transport costs.


(f) Since the opening of the New World, a steady stream of immigrants from Europe and other parts of the globe have come to settle here.

They were attracted by the continent’s rich natural resources and industrial prospects, particularly in the north-east. They brought their skill and knowledge which have helped to develop the economic potential here.


(g) The many large towns with their dense population constitute both man-power for the industrial plants and a market for the products that they turn out.


h) Pittsburgh’s central position between the heavily industrialized lakeside cities (e.g. Chicago, Detroit, Buffalo), the agricultural west and south, and the prosperous Atlantic coast has favoured the tremendous economic growth of the region, resulting in its present industrial prosperity.


3) The Industrial Belt of Southern Japan (Asia)

The industrial belt of southern Japan is the largest industrial region of Asia, surpassing the Damodar Valley of India and the Wuhan industrial area of China.

She had a comparatively late start, almost 200 years behind that of Western countries. Japan only turned to industrialization when she realised that agriculture and fishing alone could not meet the demands posed by her rapid population increase. She began with the development of light industries but these were mostly destroyed during the war. Post-war reconstruction and reorganization commenced vigorously in 1945. The emphasis was on heavy industries concentrated along the south-eastern coasts in the Keihin industrial district (Tokyo-Yokohama), the Hanshin district (Osaka-Kobe-Kyoto), the Ise Bay region (Nagoya) and Kitakyushu (Nagasaki-Yawata). The industrial expansion was based on hydro-electric power and imported raw materials. Lack of coal, iron, petroleum and metallic ores were serious handicaps to Japan’s ambitious programme of intensive industrialization. The only chance of competition with the older industrialized nations of the West, in their firmly established markets, was low costs of production, and hence cheapness of the goods. In this manner she succeeded. Within the last twenty years Japan has achieved an industrial growth unparalleled in any part of the world. She has overtaken many countries in the production of many industrial items, e.g. ships, synthetic fibres, electrical products and motor-cycles. Manufactured goods, in fact, account for 90 per cent of Japan’s annual exports. She is now reckoned as one of the world’s six most industrialized nations with a very high standard of living that comes with industrialization. What are the precise factors that have made this sudden industrial growth of southern Japan possible?

(a) Japan has little coal and practically no petroleum. Fortunately, she has plenty of hydroelectricity, obtained from the numerous mountain streams that plunge down the rugged Japanese Alps.

Her industrial needs for electricity are so great that she has developed most of her potential power resources. In fact Japan produces 12 per cent of the world’s total H.E.P. production, the third greatest, after U.S.A. and Canada.


(b) The Japanese have made extensive use of those minerals and raw materials which are available in the country – copper, manganese, wolfram, iron ore and sulphur; silk, kaolin, limestones, bamboo and timber.

The rest of the essential raw materials are imported in bulk. These include oil, cotton, wool, rubber, tin and metallic ores from all parts of the world. Japan is, of course, aware of her over-dependence on imported raw materials, but this is unavoidable.


(c) The position of southern Japan in close proximity to mainland Asia is advantageous to her trading interest.

She is, in fact, an industrial giant in agricultural Asia. The industrially underdeveloped Asian countries form the ideal markets for Japan’s manufactured products, where cheapness overrides all other considerations. Japanese goods are also found in Africa and Latin America wherever the purchasing power is low, but are equally competitive in Western Europe.



(d) Southern Japan, with its indented coastline and sheltered waters, has the greatest number of first-class Japanese ports, e.g. Yokohama,Osaka, Kobe, Nagoya, Kitakyushu and Nagasaki. These ports play a vital role in channelling the country’s imports of raw materials and exports of manufactured goods. They have extensive trade with South-East Asia, Australasia, U.S.A ., Europe, Africa and South America.


(e) The rise of Japan’s industries owes much to the relentless efforts of the Japanese government in fulfilling its ambitious industrialization policies.

To this end, the government imported foreign machinery, offered opportunities for technical training overseas, formulated a technical-based education,and granted handsome subsidies. Today, the Japanese are so technically proficient that Western firms are sending their representatives to learn new techniques in commercial and industrial management in Japan.No country in modern history has been able to advance so much in so short a space of timein thefield of industrialization as Japan.


(f) Japan’s large population provided ready manpower for the factories when the country began its programme of industrialization.

The people were prepared to accept low wages and long working hours, so that their goods could compete favourably with those of their rivals in the West.


(g) Japan’s post-war recovery was made possible through liberal American and other Western aid.

Greater efficiency was attained with improved factory installations that replaced the ruined or outdated pre- war equipment. Post-war cordial relations with her neighbouring countries have paved the way for greater commercial and industrial expansion.


4) Industrial Areas of West Africa

A common feature of industrial development in West African countries is the marked concentration of industries in a few locations or zones in each country. This is a sign of the youthful nature of modern industrial development in this region; only a few favoured locations have the facilities required for the setting up of modern manufacturing industries.

In Nigeria, the major industrial areas are (i) the Lagos-Ikeja zone; (ii) the Kaduna-Kano-Jos triangle; (iii) the Port Harcourt-Aba axis; and (iv) the Warri-Sapele-Benin zone. Other isolated industrial concentrations are found in Ibadan and Enugu.

In Ghana, three industrial concentrations may be identified, namely, Accra-Tema; Sekondi-Takoradi, and Kumasi.

In Ivory Coast the industrial zones are Abidjan-Grand Bassam; Bouake-Dimbokoro and Ferkessedougou-Korhogo.

In Senegal the industrial concentrations are Dakar -Theis – Mbao zone; Diourbel-Kaolack; and St. Louis.

In Liberia, the main industrial zone is Buchanan-Harper area.

Elsewhere in West Africa, the capital cities are the main industrial centres.


The industrial areas of West Africa have certain characteristics in common:

  1. They are to be found either around sea ports or along the railway lines built by the colonial governments. This is understandable because the seaports are the focal points for imports and exports in each country while, the towns and cities located on the railways have the advantage of good transportation and accessibility to and from the ports.
  2. The industrial areas mainly produce consumer goods to reduce their importation from abroad. Such consumer goods include textiles, footwear, beer, soaps and detergents, etc.
  3. Many of the industries are not really manufacturing industries but assembly plants. Such assembly plants include vehicle assembly plants, bicycle assembly plants, glassware, electronics (TV assembly) etc. Examples of vehicle assembly plants in Nigeria include (a) Peugeot Automobile of Nigeria, Kaduna and (b) Volkswagen of Nigeria, Lagos. There is a television assembly plant in Ibadan making Sanyo radio and TV sets.

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