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ASR FORUM: ENGAGING WITH AFRICAN INFORMAL ECONOMIES: The China–Africa Value Chain: Can Africa’s Small-Scale Entrepreneurs Engage Successfully in Global Trade?

  • Michal Lyons (a1), Alison Brown (a2) and Zhigang Li (a3)

This article analyzes the value chain for Chinese manufactured goods such as garments and textiles sold in sub-Saharan Africa. It explores the opportunities for Africans with small, private businesses in the export trade from China, the potential for long-term business development, and how strategies of engagement have changed over time. It finds that the value chains for low-cost goods vary. There is great diversity of entry levels and opportunities for socioeconomic mobility, and traders evolve diverse strategies to obtain and defend their position in the chain. These findings are discussed in terms of understandings of international value chains, the informal economy, and African economic development strategies.


Cet article analyse la chaîne de valeur pour les produits manufacturés en Chine, en particulier les vêtements et tissus vendus en Afrique subsaharienne. Il explore les opportunités pour les africains dans les petites entreprises liées au commerce d’export venant de Chine, le potentiel pour le développement du commerce au long terme, et la manière dont les stratégies d’engagement ont changé au cours du temps. Nous observons que la chaîne de valeur pour les produits à bas prix varie. Il y a une grande diversité d’opportunités de niveaux d’entrée et de mobilité socio-économique, et les commerçants utilisent différentes stratégies pour obtenir et défendre leurs positions dans la chaîne. Ces conclusions sont évaluées en terme de compréhension de la chaîne de valeur à l’international, d’économie informelle, et de stratégies de développement économique sur le sol africain.

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African Studies Review
  • ISSN: 0002-0206
  • EISSN: 1555-2462
  • URL: /core/journals/african-studies-review
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