International Trade Working Paper

The International Trade Working Paper series promptly documents and disseminates reviews, analytical work and think-pieces to facilitate the exchange of ideas and to stimulate debates and discussions on issues that are of interest to developing countries in general and Commonwealth members in particular. The issues considered in the papers may be evolving in nature, leading to further work and refinement at a later stage.


Clothing Global Value Chains and Sub-Saharan Africa: Global Exports, Regional Dynamics and Industrial Development Outcomes

This paper assesses the export-oriented clothing industry in the five main sub-Saharan African (SSA) clothing exporter countries (Mauritius, Madagascar, Kenya, Lesotho and Swaziland). The focus is on analysing the various characteristics driving firm and value-chain dynamics as well as upgrading and industrial development outcomes. This includes challenges related to global dynamics as well as unfavourable domestic conditions, such as limited skills and industrial capabilities and poor infrastructure. It gives a short overview of the global clothing industry, discussing the clothing global value chain (GVCs) and its main actors, the regulatory environment of the global clothing trade, and global trade patterns. The development of export clothing sectors in SSA is explored, with different types of clothing firms and value-chain channels and their implications on upgrading, skill development and sustainability identified and the main challenges assessed. It concludes by proposing policies to secure sustainability and foster upgrading and broader industrial development in SSA export-oriented clothing industries. It focuses on four broad policy issues: upgrading and skill development; market diversification and regional value chains; local firm development and locally embedded clothing industries; and trade policy and preferential market access.


Keywords: regulation, Sub-Saharan Africa, sustainability, clothing industry, global value chains, skill development
JEL: F16: International Economics / Trade / Trade and Labor Market Interactions; R11: Urban, Rural, Regional, Real Estate, and Transportation Economics / General Regional Economics / Regional Economic Activity: Growth, Development, Environmental Issues, and Changes
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