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Foreign Investment and Upgrading in the Garment Sector in Africa and Asia

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

Linda Calabrese, Neil Balchin

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)34-44
Number of pages11
JournalGlobal Policy
Issue numberS1
Accepted/In press15 Jan 2022
Published9 Apr 2022

Bibliographical note

Funding Information: The authors are thankful to Gatsby Africa, whose financial support funded the original research from which this article is drawn. We also wish to thank Dr Celia Lee Khiaw Peng and an anonymous reviewer whose comments greatly helped us improve this study. Publisher Copyright: © 2022 The Authors. Global Policy published by Durham University and John Wiley & Sons Ltd.


King's Authors


In many developing countries, the apparel industry is seen as a ‘stepping stone’ towards industrialisation. Countries rely on foreign investment to enter the garment sector by engaging in simple assembly production and aim to gradually upgrade along the value chain by building their networks and capabilities. By comparing case studies in Africa and Asia, this article shows that foreign investors contribute differently to upgrading and creating linkages. The study reviews the historical experiences of Bangladesh, Cambodia, Lesotho and Madagascar to understand the roles played by various types of foreign investors in contributing to upgrading. The model of production of these investors and their embeddedness in the host countries’ markets shape their contribution towards upgrading. This has important policy implications, suggesting that government policies aiming to develop the garment sector beyond the assembly stage need to correctly identify and attract the investors that are most likely to be or become ‘embedded’. The case studies also highlight the importance of creating a domestic class of entrepreneurs that can actively contribute to the development of the garment industry.

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