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

Image: Getty, Rodger Bosch/AFP
Image: Getty, Rodger Bosch/AFP


Qualitative analysis of clothing sector including analysis of firms and trade agreements affecting the industry.

Research Objective

Analysing the various characteristics driving firm- and value chain dynamics as well as upgrading and industrial development outcomes.


This paper provides a brief overview of the clothing industry, discussing the clothing global value chains and its main actors, the regulatory environment of global clothing trade and global trade patterns. It identifies different types of clothing firms and value chain channels and their implications on upgrading, skill development and sustainability, and assesses main challenges.

Policy Recommendations

  • Policies have to focus on improving competitiveness and increase productivity
  • Competitiveness is seen within the context of fulfilling high performance requirements with regards to quality, lead times and flexibility, complexity of products and different types of product, adherence to social and environmental standards, inventory management and logistics. There is a need to move away from purely CMT operations and develop full package capabilities.
  • Skills development is central to productivity and upgrading
  • Focusing on local firms and increasing local involvement at the management and entrepreneur level is crucial to extend the impact beyond employment creation to industrial development
  • Access to low cost financing is critical
  • Dismantle trade barriers
  • Improve transport logistics, transport infrastructure
  • Trade promotion between regional countries and firms within chains could unlock further benefits
  • Preferential market access remains important to SSA – maintain these trade agreements with key partners
  • Negotiate additional access to non-traditional partners
  • Improve marketing at the country or even continental level
2 Jun 2016


Textiles & Clothing


Commonwealth Secretariat


Sub-Saharan Africa


Lesotho, Madagascar, Mauritius, Swaziland


Clothing, Industrialisation