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Thinning and Thickening: Productive Sector Policies in the Era of Global Value Chains

University House (Library Meeting Room)
Lectures Talks and Workshops, Social Sciences
Thursday 12th March 2015 (12:00-13:00)
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Global Value Chains Research Cluster Seminar Series

Speakers: Professor Raphael Kaplinsky (Open University)


Effective insertion into global export markets offers the potential for sustainable income growth. However, inappropriate positioning in global markets may well lead to immiserising growth. The key to achieving the beneficial outcome lies in the capacity to identify, appropriate and protect rents, and in the context of intense global competition, to develop the capacity to master  dynamic capabilities in order to generate rents on a sustainable basis. This rent policy agenda is necessarily contextual. We argue that the current temporal context is one in which an increasing share of global trade occurs within Global Value Chains, and that this is widely recognised. Less widely recognised (and we believe that this is the value added in this paper) is the key sectoral distinction between vertically specialised GVCs and additive GVCs.

These two families of GVCs require different corporate strategies and different forms of policy support. We refer to the two strategic agendas as “thinning” (in the case of vertically specialised GVCs) and “thickening” (in the case of additive GVCs). The additive GVCs tend to be relatively more important in low and middle income economies, particularly in Africa and Latin America and parts of South and east Asia. Critically, since effective policy support applies to the agricultural, resource, manufacturing and services sectors (and to the interconnections between them), we argue that “industrial policy” is a misnomer, and instead that we conceive of the policy agenda as one which addresses the “productive sector”.

Speaker profile:

Raphael Kaplinsky is a Professor of International Development in the Centre for Development Policy and Practice at the Open University. He is the author of numerous books on technology, industrialisation, and globalisation. During the 1990s he pioneered research on changing patterns of organisation in manufacturing in developing countries and on global value chains. Between 1998 and 2003 Raphael was the research manager of an integrated and globally networked programme of research on Globalisation and Value Chains undertaken by the Institute of Development Studies at the University of Sussex in cooperation with a range of global partners drawn from academia, the corporate sector, the multilateral agencies and civil-society. In 2005 he initiated a similar globally-networked research programme on the impact of dynamic Asian economies on the developing world (The Asian Drivers Programme), and has particular responsibility for the programme’s work on Sub-Saharan Africa. As part of this he worked closely with the African Economic Research Consortium’s 20 country Asian Driver Research Programme. In 2005 he published a widely-cited book on globalisation, utilising micro-, meso- and macro-data to examine the generalised consequence of upgrading in the global economy (Globalization, Poverty and Inequality).

More recently he has co-directed a research programme with the University of Cape Town on linkages from the commodities sectors in Africa. His current research is focused on the contribution of Emerging Economy innovation on pro-poor innovation and growth strategies in low income economies. During the course of this research he has over the years worked with enterprises, government-departments and other organisations in Japan, the USA, Western and Eastern Europe, Central America, Brazil, sub-Saharan Africa, and South and Central Asia.

During his distinguished research career, Raphael has participated in numerous UN and EU Missions, providing advice to a large range of countries, particularly on industrial and technology policies. He has led teams of advisers in Central America, Cyprus, South Africa and Kazakhstan and has participated as an adviser in a number of other countries. He has also provided advice on strategic focus and on manufacturing organisation to transnational firms, and to firms in the UK, Africa, Brazil, Central Asia, Central America and India. In the mid-1990s he worked with the European Commission on a programme of assistance to encourage organisational restructuring in European manufacturing and services. More recently, he has worked with the United Nations Industrial Development Organisation (UNIDO) and the United Nations Conference on Trade and Development (UNCTAD) on policies towards the resource sector.

Lunch will be provided. 

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