Survivors vs creators: upgrading and public governance in the Kenyan leather value chain

Giovanni Pasquali


This paper highlights the complementarity of public and private governance in shaping upgrading across domestic, regional and global value chains (GVCs). This is achieved through a comparative analysis of suppliers in Kenya’s leather handbag and footwear subsectors. In the former, local access to foreign knowledge within emerging SMEs and a sense of mistrust of state policies has favoured upgrading and participation in competitive global markets. Conversely, in the latter, an industry originally dominated by large subsidised firms and apprenticeship-based learning led to the cutback of
production costs, a loss of product quality and poorer labour conditions, triggering informalisation and limiting participation in GVCs. By analysing the link between firms, government regulations and participation in GVCs, the study argues against a restricted focus on the private governance of buyer–supplier interactions, reinforcing the call for a ‘multi-scalar’ approach to the study of upgrading in GVCs.


Global value chains, upgrading, public governance, leather, Kenya

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