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Posts tagged East Africa
Digital Control in Value Chains: Challenges of Connectivity for East African Firms

 

I'm happy to report on a new co-authored paper that I have out. The piece asks what difference changing connectivity has made for East African firms. The piece emerges from a multi-year study on Development and Broadband Internet Access in East Africa that evolved into my current 'Geonet' project.

Foster, C., Graham, M., Mann, L., Waema, T., and Friederici, N. 2017. Digital Control in Value Chains: Challenges of Connectivity for East African FirmsEconomic Geography. 94(1) 68-86.

Summary

In recent years, Internet connectivity has greatly improved across the African continent. This article examines the consequences that this shift has had for East African firms that are part of global value chains (GVCs). Prior work yielded contradictory expectations: firms might benefit from connectivity through increased efficiencies and improved access to markets, although they might also be further marginalized through increasing control of lead firms. Drawing on extensive qualitative research in Kenya and Rwanda, including 264 interviews, we examine 3 sectors (tea, tourism, and business process outsourcing) exploring overarching, cross-cutting themes. The findings support more pessimistic expectations: small African producers are only thinly digitally integrated in GVCs. Moreover, shifting modes of value chain governance, supported by lead firms and facilitated by digital information platforms and data standards are leading to new challenges for firms looking to digitally integrate. Nevertheless, we also find examples in these sectors of opportunities where small firms are able to cater to emerging niche customers, and local or regional markets. Overall, the study shows that improving connectivity does not inherently benefit African firms in GVCs without support for complementary capacity and competitive advantages.

Related work

Foster, C. and Graham, M. 2017. Reconsidering the Role of the Digital in Global Production Networks. Global Networks. 17(1) 68-88 DOI: 10.1111/glob.12142.

Friederici, N. Ojanperä, S., and Graham, M. 2017. The Impact of Connectivity in Africa: Grand Visions and the Mirage of Inclusive Digital Development. Electronic Journal of Information Systems in Developing Countries. 79(2) 1-20. 

Mann, L and Graham, M. 2016 The Domestic Turn: Business Process Outsourcing and the Growing Automation of Kenyan Organisations. Journal of Development Studies 52:4, 530-548, DOI: 10.1080/00220388.2015.1126251.

Graham, M., Mann, L., Friederici, N. and Waema, T. 2016. Growing the Kenyan Business Process Outsourcing SectorThe African Technopolitan. 5 93-95

Graham, M. 2015. Contradictory Connectivity: Spatial Imaginaries and Techno-Mediated Positionalities in Kenya's Outsourcing Sector. Environment and Planning A 47 867-883 (pre-publicaion version here).

Mann, L., Graham, M., and Friederici, N. 2015. The Internet and Business Process Outsourcing in East Africa. Oxford Internet Institute Report, Oxford, UK.

New publication: Geographies of Connectivity in East Africa: Trains, Telecommunications, and Technological Teleologies
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I’m very happy to announce that a paper that I co-authored with Casper Andersen and Laura Mann has been accepted for publication in the Transactions of the Institute of British Geographers

Graham, M., Andersen, C., and Mann, L. 2015 Geographical Imagination and Technological Connectivity in East Africa. Transactions of the Institute of British Geographers 40(3) 334-349. (pre-publication version here).

The paper analyses and compares two transformative moments of technologically-mediated change in East Africa, the construction of the Uganda railway between Mombasa and Lake Victoria (1896-1903) and the introduction of fibre-optic cables that landed into the ports of Dar Es Salaam and Mombasa in 2009. 

It uses discourse analysis to examine how technologically-mediated connectivity has been represented by political and economic actors during these transformative moments. In both cases, we explore the origins of the expectations of connectivity and the hope and fear associated with them. 

Building on Massey’s notion of power-geometry and Sheppard’s concept of positionality the paper focuses on power relationships in discussions of connectivity and asks how people understand the abilities of transformative technologies to modify positionalities and alter relational distance and proximity. Ultimately, by examining historical and contemporary expectations of connectivity in East Africa, this paper allows us to work towards creating more grounded and historicised understandings of the coming-together of technology and connectivity.

Final Project Report: Promises of Fibre-Optic Broadband in the Kenyan Tourism and Tea Sectors
My colleagues Professor Timothy Waema and Charles Katua at the University of Nairobi have recently finished a report describing and summarising some of their research into the effects of changing connectivity in the Kenyan tea and tourism sectors.

You can find the full report below, and we would welcome any feedback that you might have:

Waema, T. and Katua, C. 2014. The Promises of Fibre-Optic Broadband in Tourism and Tea Sectors: A Pipeline for Economic Development in East Africa.

The report comes out of our larger project looking at ‘development’ and broadband internet access in East Africa. In the next few months, Chris Foster, Nicolas Friederici, and I will also be releasing reports looking at changing connectivity in the tea and tourism sectors of Rwanda, and the implications of changing connectivity on Kenya and Rwanda’s Business Process Outsourcing sector.


Hiring a Research Assistant (or Postdoc) to work on a Project to Study the Impact of Broadband Internet in East Africa

I am currently hiring a 28 month Research Assistant (or Postdoctoral Research Fellow) to work on an ESRC-DFID funded project titled “The Promises of Fibre-Optic Broadband: A Pipeline for Economic Development in East Africa.”

Employing case-studies, interviews, surveys and textual analysis in Kenya and Rwanda, this project examines the expectations and stated potentials of broadband Internet and compares those expectations to on-the-ground effects that broadband connectivity is having in three economic sectors: tea production, ecotourism, and business process outsourcing.

Applicants should have a graduate or postgraduate qualification in one of the social sciences, experience of social science research, and be willing to conduct extended fieldwork in East Africa. The successful candidate will be able to take a lead in project management, data collection and analysis, and the dissemination of results.

Based at the Oxford Internet Institute, University of Oxford, this position is available from 1st October 2011 for 28 months in the first instance, with the possibility of renewal thereafter funding permitting. It may be possible to hire at Postdoctoral Research Fellow level given the right candidate.

Full job details and online application are available at this link.
Salary £25,751 - £30,747 p.a.
More details about the project available here.

Please share this position widely and feel free to get in touch with any questions about the position or the application procedure.