Value chains are a key framework for understanding how a product moves from the producer to
the customer. The value chain perspective provides an important means to understand the
business-business relationships, mechanisms for increasing efficiency, and ways to enable
business to increase productivity and add value. It provides a reference point for improvements
in services and the business environment. It is a vehicle for pro-poor initiatives and for linking
small businesses with the market.
Value chains reside at the core of high-impact and sustainable initiatives focused on improving
productivity, competitiveness, entrepreneurship, and SME growth.
Africa’s exports remain dominated by primary commodities, and the share of agriculture in
SSA’s total exports has declined sharply in the last 40 years. Only a few SSA countries have
achieved significant diversification of their exports. Despite those trends, agriculture remains the
main export-revenue source for many SSA countries and the largest income generator for their
populations. Much, even most, African agricultural production is of low unit value and the result
of low-productivity value chains. SSA’s agriculture productivity measure of USD 343 value
added per worker (2004) is the world’s lowest – world agricultural productivity per worker
averages three times that of SSA; Latin American productivity per worker averages nearly ten
times the sub-Saharan African average.
Despite the successes of many African exporters in selling to new markets, without further
improvements to their business environments and the competitiveness of their export
commodities, many SSA countries risk being trapped by producing low-skill, low-value products
and services, struggling to obtain a significant value-added share in global trade. The
productivity and efficiency of agricultural value chains are basic to the success of SSA rural
economies and to the incomes of SSA rural populations.
Our Guide first examines core concepts and issues relating to value chains. We review then focus on five themes, of particular relevance to African agricultural value chains, which can contribute to effective implementation tools and approaches:
• Trust and cooperation
• Market power
• Innovation and knowledge
• Focus/intervention points.
These topics pertain to conditions and challenges faced by value chain participants and
practitioners. They resonate throughout the many cases described in our modular.
Agrodomain presents methodological tools and approaches that incorporate important
value chain concepts with the themes discussed and with sound business principles. The
accompanying cases illustrate the application of the tools. The tools and case studies discussed
in this Guide have been selected for their usefulness in directing and supporting market-driven,
private-sector initiative and action.
We offers 11 value chain implementation tools, presented within the implementation
cycle of a value chain program.
• Designing strategies and business plans—Obtaining and using information
• Developing robust new businesses
• Supplying the market—Aligning supply to match market opportunity
• Reaching the market—Market positioning and market opportunities
• Improving the business and policy environment
• Monitoring results in value-chain development
Each tool is followed by descriptions of one or more actual cases. These cases illustrate the
tool’s application and are coupled with embedded mini-cases for additional illumination.
Roughly 60 percent of the examples are from Africa; others come from Europe, Latin America,
and Asia. The Guide frequently returns to the same cases when describing different tools, which
serves to highlight the multiple dimensions of a single value chain and the rich set of
opportunities value chain initiatives can offer.
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