The economies of Africa require urgent structural transformation and the great challenge is how industrial development can aid this transformation process. China’s ability to sustain high productivity growth was underpinned by resource allocation from low-to-high productive sectors and this was the essence of its own modernization processes. Most African countries remain highly reliant on commodity exports in a depressed global environment, exacerbated by declining demand from China as the continent’s major trading partner. This article examines the dilemmas of Africa’s reliance on commodity exports but, equally importantly, it seeks to investigate how China, based on its own experience, could contribute to assisting African countries to move up value chains via the imperative of a concerted industrialization endeavour and the commitments China has made in this regard. This article suggests an incremental approach that emphasizes the importance of institution building as the optimal route for promoting Africa’s development on a sustained basis.