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Posts tagged value chains
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.

Reconsidering the Role of the Digital in Global Production Networks

Chris Foster and I have a new publication out in Global Networks. We previously shared a pre-publication version, but the piece is officially in the journal now. You can access an open-access version at the following link:  

Foster, C. and Graham, M. 2016. Reconsidering the Role of the Digital in Global Production Networks. Global Networks. DOI: 10.1111/glob.12142 (pre-publication version here).

Abstract:

Global production networks (GPN) has become a key framework in conceptualising linkages, power and structure in globalised production. However, this framework has been less successful in integrating the influence of digital information and ICTs in production, and this problematic in a world where relationships and power are increasingly mediated by digital information flows and resources.

We thus look to adapt the GPN framework to allow more substantive analysis of ‘the digital’. Primarily this is done through a theoretical analysis of the three core categories of the GPN framework - embeddedness, value and networks – to highlight how these categories can better integrate a more dynamic and contested conceptualisation of the digital. Illustrations from research on the digitalization of tea sector GPNs in East Africa highlight how these theoretical advances provide new insights on the digital and its expanding role in economic production.

“Perish or Globalize:” Network Integration and the Reproduction and Replacement of Weaving Traditions in the Thai Silk Industry

The practice of handmade silk weaving has disappeared from much of the world, but continues to be practiced by thousands of people in Northeastern Thailand. However, as the Thai economy becomes increasingly embedded into global flows and networks of commodities, capital and culture, there are worries that silk weaving as a practice will either cease to be reproduced or will have to radically change in order to service the global market. This paper, based on in-depth interviews and surveys with sellers of silk, examines this dilemma faced by the industry. It finds that the means through which economic information is codified and transmitted over space and the tastes of non-local markets are ultimately resulting in changes to production practices throughout the country. Despite the fact that the internet is enabling trade and thereby allowing production practices to continue, fears are being realized about traditional practices being replaced as producers become ever more integrated into global networks.

You can access the paper here:

Graham, M. 2011. “Perish or Globalize:” Network Integration and the Reproduction and Replacement of Weaving Traditions in the Thai Silk Industry ACME: Journal of Critical Geographies10(3) 458-482.

I just had to refer to this paper in a chapter I’m writing, so decided to post it here (I’ve never blogged it, and my website contained a dead link to it). 

If you like the topic, here is some related work that I did:

Graham, M. 2013. Thai Silk dot Com: Authenticity, Altruism, Modernity and Markets in the Thai Silk Industry. Globalisations 10(2) 211-230.

Graham, M. 2011. Disintermediation, Altered Chains and Altered Geographies: The Internet in the Thai Silk Industry. Electronic Journal of Information Systems in Developing Countries. 45(5), 1-25

Graham, M. 2010. Justifying Virtual Presence in the Thai Silk Industry: Links Between Data and Discourse. Information Technologies and International Development. 6(4), 57-70.

Graham, M. 2011. Time Machines and Virtual Portals: The Spatialities of the Digital Divide. Progress in Development Studies. 11 (3). 211-227.

Graham, M. 2011. Cultural Brokers, the Internet, and Value Chains. In The Cultural Wealth of Nations. eds. Wherry, F. and N. Bandelj. Standford: Stanford University Press. 222-239 (email for a copy).