Global Development Institute Blog

University of Johannesburg & University of Manchester Workshop

CCRED, Johannesburg, 6-8 July 2020

A rich body of research has examined the prospects for development within global value chains (GVCs) and global production networks (GPNs), yet the implications of regional value chains (RVCs) have until recently been relatively overlooked.

While regional patterns of trade have been observed since the early literature on GVCs and GPNs (e.g. Gereffi 1999; Yeung 2001), such research has largely focused on trade in intermediate goods which ultimately serve global markets. However, the expansion of end markets beyond the global North has involved a growth of regional end markets for final goods (Gereffi 2014; Baldwin and Lopez-Gonzalez 2015; Horner and Nadvi 2018, McKinsey 2019), while the digital economy offers the potential for greater intra-regional trade. Regional trade integration has continued apace in recent years, with the African Continental Free Trade Agreement a recent example (Signe and Van Der Ven; 2019).

Given the barriers to accessing GVCs and small size of many domestic markets, reports by policy organisations such as the AU, IADB (2012), OECD (2014), SADC and EAC have expressed interest in regional value chains (RVCs) as a pathway to economic growth and diversification. Yet, to date, there has been insufficient research attention to the underlying trading dynamics or processes involved and as to whether RVCs may, or may not, offer better opportunities for producers and workers than participating in GVCs.

This workshop builds on an emerging body of research which has begun to probe the developmental implications of RVCs, such as by unpacking the role of regional supermarkets in Africa and their sourcing strategies (Das Nair et al. 2018; Krishnan 2018); exploring the implications of trade policy for regional value chains (Godfrey 2015; Pickles et al. 2015); and examining private standards in the context of overlapping RVCs and GVCs (Barrientos et al. 2016; Pickles et al. 2016); amongst others (e.g. Morris et al. 2011, 2016; Arndt and Roberts 2018, Scholvin et al. 2019).

This workshop aims to interrogate RVCs and their developmental implications for people, industries, countries and regions. RVCs are understood as those in which lead firms supply markets in neighbouring and regional economies and source from regionally based suppliers.

Empirical papers that are conceptually framed are invited. Indicative topics include, but are not limited to:

  • Implications of RVCs for economic, social and/or environmental upgrading or downgrading
  • Potential for inclusionary development and greater participation, especially through the integration of micro and small enterprises, within RVCs
  • Lead firms and their business models in governing and organising regional value chains
  • The development and implementation of regional product, labour and environmental standards
  • Power dynamics and asymmetries within RVCs
  • The role of state policy in facilitating (e.g. through economic zones, financing) or hindering and regulating RVCs
  • The role of trade agreements and non-tariff barriers (incl. regional and bilateral) in promoting the expansion of RVCs
  • RVCs in the digital economy (e.g. through e-commerce, blockchains, regional platforms, big data)
  • How RVCs relate to, and potentially overlap with, global value chains (GVCs) and/or domestic value chains (DVCs) and how RVC actors navigate multiple end markets

We seek to address these issues through a small, focused two and a half-day workshop at the Centre for Competition, Regulation and Economic Development (CCRED), Johannesburg. We aim to produce a publication output in the form of a journal special issue from this event. Submission of full written papers is required prior to the workshop.

Extended Abstract Submission deadline: 27 January 2020; 800-1000 words

Confirmation of accepted abstracts: 9 February 2020

Full Paper Submission deadline: 8th June 2020; Max. 8,000 words excl. abstract, notes, references etc.

Funding:  There is no fee to participate in this workshop. Some competitive funding is available to cover travel and accommodation, prioritising researchers based in the global South, as well as early career researchers. If you require funding, please provide a brief explanatory statement (maximum 500 words) along with your extended abstract.

Submissions/queries: Aarti Krishnan ( & Reena Das Nair (

Organising team: Matthew Alford, Reena Das Nair, Rory Horner, Aarti Krishan, Khalid Nadvi, Thando Vilakazi, Stephanie Barrientos, Simon Roberts


Selected References

Arndt, C. and S. J. Roberts (2018) Key issues in regional growth and integration in Southern Africa, Development Southern Africa, 35 (3), 297-314.

Barrientos, S., P. Knorringa, B. Evers, M. Visser and M. Opondo (2016) Shifting regional dynamics of global value chains: implications for economic and social upgrading in African horticulture, Environment and Planning A, 48 (7), 1266–83.

Black, A., L. Edwards, F. Ismail, B. Makundi and M. Morris (2019) Prospects and policies for the development of regional value chains in Southern Africa, WIDER Working Paper 2019/48. Helsinki, Finland: UNU-WIDER.

Das Nair, R., S. Chisoro, and F. Ziba (2018) The implications for suppliers of the spread of supermarkets in Southern Africa, Development Southern Africa, 35 (3), 334-350.

Gereffi, G. (2014) Global value chains in a post-Washington Consensus world, Review of International Political Economy, 21 (1), 9–37.

Godfrey, S. (2015) Global, regional and domestic apparel value chains in southern Africa: social upgrading for some and downgrading for others, Cambridge Journal of Regions, Economy and Society, 8 (3), 491–504.

Horner, R. and K. Nadvi (2018) Global value chains and the rise of the global South: unpacking twenty-first century polycentric tradeGlobal Networks, 18 (2), 207-237

IADB (2012) Are global value chains really global? Policies to accelerate countries’ access to international production networks. Washington, DC: Inter-American Development Bank.

Krishnan, A. (2018) The origin and expansion of regional value chains: the case of Kenyan horticulture, Global Networks, 18 (2), 238-263.

McKinsey Global Institute (2019) Globalization in transition: the future of trade and value chains.

Morris, M., C. Staritz and J. Barnes (2011) Value chain dynamics, local embeddedness, and upgrading in the clothing sectors of Lesotho and Swaziland, International Journal of Technological Learning, Innovation and Development, 4 (1), 96-119.

Morris, M., C. Staritz, and L. Plank (2016) Regionalism, end markets and ownership matter: Shifting dynamics in the apparel export industry in sub Saharan Africa, Environment and Planning A, 48(7): 244–65.

OECD (2014) African economic outlook, Paris: Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development.

Pickles, J., L. Plank, C. Staritz and A. Glasmeier (2015) Trade policy and regionalisms in global clothing production networks, Cambridge Journal of Regions, Economy and Society, 8 (3), 381-402.

Pickles, J., S. Barrientos and P. Knorringa (2016) New end markets, supermarket expansion and shifting social standards, Environment and Planning A, 48 (7), 1284-301.

Scholvin, S., A. Black, J.R. Diez and I. Turok (2019) Value Chains in Sub-Saharan Africa, Springer.

Signe, C and C. van der Ven (2019) Key to success for the AfCFTA negotiations, Brookings Policy Brief: Africa Growth initiative. 


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