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2019/2020  KAN-CCBLO1801U  Africa, Global Value Chains and Development

English Title
Africa, Global Value Chains and Development

Course information

Language English
Course ECTS 7.5 ECTS
Type Mandatory offered as elective
Level Full Degree Master
Duration One Semester
Start time of the course Spring
Timetable Course schedule will be posted at calendar.cbs.dk
Study board
Study Board for BSc and MSc in Business, Language and Culture, MSc
Course coordinator
  • Stefano Ponte - Department of Management, Society and Communication (MSC)
Main academic disciplines
  • Intercultural studies
  • International political economy
Teaching methods
  • Face-to-face teaching
Last updated on 15/05/2019

Relevant links

Learning objectives
  • Have a clear understanding of, and be able to discuss, the theories and concepts covered in the course readings that are relevant to the analysis of global value chains in Africa.
  • Apply these concepts and theories to critically analyse how global value chains are governed in Africa, how value is created, redistributed and appropriate along value chains, and what kinds of upgrading trajectories are available to GVC actors in African countries.
  • Critically evaluate these theories, their application and their limitations in relation to explaining the effects of GVC governance and upgrading on economic outcomes and inequality that may affect various kinds of actors along the value chain – including the livelihoods of small-scale primary producers, and of women in particular.
Africa, Global Value Chains and Development:
Exam ECTS 7.5
Examination form Home assignment - written product
Individual or group exam Individual exam
Size of written product Max. 10 pages
Assignment type Written assignment
Duration Written product to be submitted on specified date and time.
Grading scale 7-point grading scale
Examiner(s) One internal examiner
Exam period Summer
Make-up exam/re-exam
Same examination form as the ordinary exam
Description of the exam procedure

During the last class of the course (and online at the same time), individual students will be given the opportunity to choose between 3-4 different topics for their academic paper to be written at home. These topics may range from: examining a global value chain in a specific industry in one or more African countries; critically engaging with a theoretical topic (e.g. GVC upgrading); or providing a strategic or policy solution to a specific challenge (e.g. unequal distribution of gains). The students will have a three week period to work on the assignment at home, with access to all media. 

Course content, structure and pedagogical approach

Technological and organizational changes have been crucial in transforming the way in which production is organized across time and space. The steam engine in the 19th century made transportation and manufacturing economic in ways that allowed the spatial separation of production from consumption, but for much of the 20th century, production was still organized along vertically integrated firms. By the late 1970s, however, a more flexible and spatially dispersed mode of production had taken hold – based on slicing up production in specific tasks and moving some of these out of the boundary of the firm through external contracting. Information and communication technology in the latter part of the 20th century further facilitated the global outsourcing and offshoring of manufacturing activity. This has led to the organization of economic activity in Global Value Chains (GVCs) that are dispersed globally but governed centrally by ‘lead firms’. Lead firms are groups of firms that operate at particular functional positions along the chain and that are able to shape who does what along the chain, at what price, using what standards, to which specifications, and delivering at what point in time.


These trends have important implications on economic, social and environmental trajectories in Africa and elsewhere, and on the kinds of interventions that are part of the current portfolio of development interventions. Participation in different kinds of global value chains has specific impacts on different kinds of actors, industries and countries. And different kinds of participation (or exclusion, non-participation) in GVCs also have different impacts, which need to be understood so to avoid a ‘one size fits all’ understanding of development trajectories and industrial policy in various African contexts.


In this course, we unpack this complexity in order to understand the changing role of Africa in the global economy, the kind of future trajectories we are likely to experience, and the potential, limits and effects of different kinds of value chain development interventions and industrial policy. Each session will include a lecture, group discussion and hands-on work on a project or assignment directly related to the theme of the session – this can include simulations, role-play and/or problem-solving exercises.


Description of the teaching methods
The course is structured to combine theory and practice seamlessly in each section. It covers theories of global value chain governance and upgrading and combines them with practical and case study-oriented dialogue and discussion. Each session will combine lectures, group discussion and simulation exercises. Attention is paid to developing students’ ability to consider a variety of options and devise solutions to the complex dilemmas that are faced in the operation of global value chains in Africa, in policy design, and in the workings of development projects based on value chain interventions. These competences will be useful for future work placements in international business operations in/from Africa; in local or international NGOs involved in private-public partnerships for value chain development (which are very popular currently); in development and value chain consulting; and in international organizations, government departments and bilateral aid agencies.
Feedback during the teaching period
The main way for students to obtain feedback on their readings and work for this course is through active participation in class. Students are expected to attend lectures and classes, to come prepared and participate actively. Specific guidance on the exam content and form will be provided in the last session. Students are also encouraged to seek individual or group feedback during regular consultation hours.
Student workload
Lectures 30 hours
Exam 77 hours
Preparation 123 hours
Expected literature




Other readings will be available online through the CBS Library or direct link. 

Last updated on 15/05/2019