Knowledge networks: adding value to the East African apparel industry

Working paper
, 32 pages
PDF (460.05 KB)
Published: February 2013
Product code:16039IIED

The textile and clothing sector is a knowledge-intensive industry; producers do not just need the technical knowledge for improving production processes and logistics, but also the commercial knowledge to understand and translate consumer behaviour and market trends into design, production and marketing processes. Suppliers in developing countries, in particular small and medium enterprises, often lack access to the inputs, services and knowledge necessary to take their product or service to market – especially more formalised and developed export markets.

Between 2000 and 2010, six of the world’s ten fastest growing economies were in Africa. Our paper asks how this economic growth potential can translate into opportunities for small and medium fashion, clothing and textiles suppliers in East Africa. We argue that rather than seeing product suppliers only as part of linear supply ‘chains’, they should be understood as part of more complex global networks of actors. The paper draws on global production network (GPN) theory to explore how knowledge and information can be employed through networks in a way that adds value to the product.

This publication is part of the Linking Worlds series.