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Accessing global value chains: The politics of promoting export-driven industrialisation and upgrading in the Mozambican cashew processing industry

  • Successful export sectors in manufacturing and agribusiness are important drivers of structural transformation in Sub-Sahara African countries. Backed by industrial policies and active state involvement, a small number of successful productive export sectors has emerged in Sub-Saharan Africa. This thesis asks the question: How do politics shape the promotion of export-driven industrialisation and firm-level upgrading in Sub-Saharan Africa? It exemplifies this question with an in-depth, qualitative study of the cashew processing industry in Mozambique in the period from 1991 until 2019. Mozambique used to be one of the world’s largest producers and processors of cashew nuts in the 1960s and 1970s. At the end of the 20th century, the cashew processing industry broke down completely but has re-emerged as one of the country’s few successful agro-processing exports. The thesis draws on theoretical approaches from the fields of political science, notably the political settlements framework, global value chain analysis and the research on technological capabilities to explore why the Mozambican Government supported the cashew processing industry and how Mozambican cashew processors acquired the technological capabilities needed to access the global cashew value chain and to upgrade. It makes an important theoretical contribution by linking the political settlements framework and the literature on upgrading in global value chains to study how politics shaped productive sector promotion and upgrading in the Mozambican cashew processing industry. The findings of the thesis are based on extensive primary data, including 58 expert interviews and 10 firm surveys, that was collected in Mozambique in 2018 as well as a broad base of secondary literature. The thesis argues that the Mozambican Government supported the cashew processing industry because it became important for the Government’s political survival. Promoting the cashew sector formed part of an electoral strategy for the ruling FRELIMO coalition and a means to keep FRELIMO factions united by offering economic opportunities to key constituencies. In 1999, it adopted a protectionist cashew law that created strong incentives for cashew processing in Mozambique. This not only facilitated the re-emergence of the cashew processing industry after its breakdown. The law and the active involvement of the National Cashew Institute (INCAJU) also affected the governance of the local cashew value chain, the creation of backward linkages, and the upgrading paths of cashew processors. The findings of the thesis suggest that the cashew law reduced the pressure on the cashew processing industry to upgrade. The law further created opportunities for formal and informal rent creation for members of the political elite and lower level FRELIMO officials that prevented a far-reaching reform of the law. The thesis shows that international buyers do not promote upgrading among Sub-Sahara African firms in global value chains with market-based or modular governance. Moreover, firms that operate in countries where industrial policies are not enforced effectively cannot draw on the support of government institutions to enhance their capabilities and to upgrade. Firms therefore mainly depended on costly learning channels at firm level, e.g. learning by doing or hiring skilled labour, and/or on technical assistance from donors to build the technological capabilities needed to access global value chains and to remain competitive. The findings of the thesis suggest that researchers, governments, development practitioners and consultants need to rethink their understanding of upgrading in GVCs in four ways. First, they need to move away from understanding upgrading in terms of moving towards more complex, higher value-added activities in GVCs (functional upgrading). Instead, it is important to consider the potential of other, more realistic types of upgrading for firms in low-income countries, such reducing risks by diversifying suppliers and buyers or increasing rewards by making production processes more efficient. Second, they need to replace an overly positive view on upgrading that neglects possible side-effects at sector and/or country level. Third, GVC participation on its own does not promote upgrading among local supplier firms in Sub-Saharan Africa. The interests of lead firms and Sub-Sahara African supplier firms may not be aligned or even conflicting. Targeted industrial policies and the creation of institutions that effectively promote capability building among firms therefore become even more important. Finally, upgrading needs to be understood as a process that is not only shaped by interactions between firms, but also by local domestic politics. The findings of the thesis are highly relevant for scholars from the fields of political science, development studies, and economics. Its practical implications and tools, e.g. a technological capabilities matrix for the cashew industry, are of interest for development practitioners, members of public institutions in Sub-Sahara African countries, local entrepreneurs, and representatives of local business associations that are involved in promoting export sectors and upgrading among local firms.

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Author:Christina Lisa Saulich
Referee:Siegmar Schmidt, Lars Buur
Document Type:Doctoral Thesis
Date of completion:2021/01/21
Date of publication:2021/01/21
Publishing institution:Universität Koblenz-Landau, Campus Landau, Universitätsbibliothek
Granting institution:Universität Koblenz-Landau, Campus Landau, Fachbereich 6
Date of final exam:2020/11/19
Release Date:2021/01/21
Tag:Cashew-Sektor; Globale Wertschöpfungsketten
GND Keyword:Industriepolitik; Mosambik; Politische Ökonomie
Number of pages:XXI, 362 Seiten
Institutes:Fachbereich 6
Licence (German):License LogoEs gilt das deutsche Urheberrecht: § 53 UrhG