Skip to main content

Centre of African Studies: Events


African-owned firms building capabilities in global value chains: Examining the Ethiopian garment export sector

African-owned firms building capabilities in global value chains: Examining the Ethiopian garment export sector
Speaker: Prof. Lindsay Whitfield # Roskilde University
Hosted by
Introduced by
Date and Time
25th Jan 2017 16:00 - 25th Jan 2017 17:30
Seminar Rooms 1 & 2, Ground floor, Chrystal Macmillan Building, 15a George Square

Economic growth increased in many Sub-Saharan African countries since the mid-1990s, but did not lead to significant structural change of their economies because it was driven largely by increases in international commodity prices and consumption fuelled by government spending and foreign aid. Economic transformation is composed of many multifaceted processes, but growth in the size and capabilities of locally owned firms are essential. In the twenty-first century, late industrialization takes place increasingly through developing countries’ firms participating in global value chains, rather than creating entire industries within their borders. Becoming competitive in global value chains not only requires that local firms access, master and adapt foreign technology, which in turn requires that they build their technological capabilities—technical, managerial, and organisational skills needed to use foreign technology profitably. It also requires that firms develop marketing capabilities and build relationships with foreign buyers and input suppliers. Why do local entrepreneurs invest in agribusiness and manufacturing for export, and how do their firms build the capabilities required to enter and become profitable in these new export sectors? The AFRICAP project aims to answer this question through research on the firm-level learning processes of African-owned firms in the floriculture and garment export sectors in Ethiopia, Madagascar and Kenya. The research focuses on how firm learning is affected by firm-specific characteristics, different national institutions and industrial policies, and variations in global value chains, foreign buyers and end-markets. This seminar presents early findings from fieldwork in the Ethiopian garment export case.