Apparel exportism in Kenya : international regimes, chain governance and upgrading

Author: Kindiki, M M

Awarding University: London, University College

Level : PhD

Year: 2011

Holding Libraries: Institute of Commonwealth Studies Library ;

Subject Terms: Clothing industry/Exports/Folklore/ ;

Pages: 0



An important question in development is how far can the contemporary global context create industrial development opportunities for the South, particularly for low income countries? In an important sense, this can only be answered in non-abstract terms, since the institutional conditions facing particular industries at particular times are highly specific. In this research, a configuration of four regimes- the structural regime on production and trade in apparel, the labour regime, the neo-statist European Union regime on production and trade in apparel and the neo-statist United States regime on production and trade in apparel- creates a window of opportunity for a Kenyan export oriented apparel industry. However, we must ask whether this industry is autonomous from these regimes to the extent that its gains can be sustainably embedded within Kenya, notably in terms of product and labour upgrading, or is it, rather, subservient to them? My theoretical discussion shows that the Global Value Chain (GVC) approach presents lead firms as the primary governors in GVCs, while International Relations theory presents regimes as the primary governors in issue areas. The discussion gives a Dependency interpretation of regimes, subsuming the GVC approach in that interpretation, and arguing that, as far as issue areas are concerned, 'external' control-emergent regime governance of the GVC overrides 'internal' control lead firm governance. My empirical discussion shows that the upgrading of the Kenyan apparel industry has been insignificant, and that the governance of regimes on production and trade in apparel, while not a necessary condition, was a sufficient condition to undermine it. Nonetheless, the Kenyan Government and social movements can exploit systemic weaknesses, the former by negotiating for a single transformation of fabric and promoting export of folklore/ hand loomed/handmade products, the latter by demanding for the full implementation of minimum labour conditions.