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Beyond harsh trade? The relevance of ‘soft’ competitiveness factors for Ugandan enterprises to endure in Global Value Chains

By Jörg Wiegratz


This article is based on an empirical study which examined the issues\ud of organization and coordination of global production and trade for the\ud case of trade between Uganda and Europe.Respective experiences of\ud 34 exporters in Uganda and 19 importers in Europe were documented\ud through in-depth interviews and consequently analyzed. The article\ud discusses matters of cooperation between the exporters and importers and\ud points to its significance for upgrading and enhancing competitiveness of\ud the exporters studied. It further identifies firm level ‘soft competitiveness\ud factors’ (SCFs) of Ugandan exporters and discusses their relevance\ud for the firms’ performance in Global Value Chains. The findings reveal\ud that deficiencies in SCFs can have damaging effects, and vice-versa.\ud Possession of the SCFs can yield significant competitive advantage for\ud exporters and help to strengthen the relationship with the importers.\ud Findings of ill-treatment of exporters by their importers highlight a\ud particular kind of challenge that is often overseen in the debate about\ud exports of African firms: the challenge regarding business behaviours,\ud practices, and ethics including the ability to engage in relations with\ud foreign buyers and leverage resources, knowledge and generally\ud cooperation from them, first, and the general issue of problematic business\ud practices in the global economy, second. The article policy recommends\ud Policy, practice and research should focus on economic, political, social,\ud cultural and institutional factors that impact on local levels of SCFs; to\ud improve and help exporting enterprises in Africa to survive and succeed\ud in GVCs, within the context of the state of the moral economy in global\ud capitalism

Publisher: Makerere University Business School
Year: 2008
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