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'Learning by importing' in global value chains: upgrading and South-South strategies in the Ugandan pharmaceutical industry


  • Stine Jessen Haakonsson


Drawing on global value chain analysis, this article discusses the possibilities for upgrading in a domestically oriented import-dependent industry. The pharmaceutical industry in Uganda consists of a large number of importers, nine of which have upgraded into assembly and four a step further into manufacturing. The industry upgrades by a process of 'learning by importing'. Although not engaged with global buyers, pharmaceutical producers in Uganda are tied into the global pharmaceutical value chain by international linkages with their suppliers, mainly in India, from whom they access technology and intermediates for production. Hence, this industry is based on South-South networks for production of low-value pharmaceutical products. With the globalisation of the pharmaceutical industry, an increasing number of global lead firms are ceasing to manufacture these products. This study illustrates an alternative form of industrialisation and upgrading that has not been adequately considered in the development of the African pharmaceutical industry.

Suggested Citation

  • Stine Jessen Haakonsson, 2009. "'Learning by importing' in global value chains: upgrading and South-South strategies in the Ugandan pharmaceutical industry," Development Southern Africa, Taylor & Francis Journals, vol. 26(3), pages 499-516.
  • Handle: RePEc:taf:deveza:v:26:y:2009:i:3:p:499-516
    DOI: 10.1080/03768350903086861

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    Cited by:

    1. De Marchi, Valentina & Giuliani, Elisa & Rabellotti, Roberta, 2015. "Local innovation and global value chains in developing countries," MERIT Working Papers 022, United Nations University - Maastricht Economic and Social Research Institute on Innovation and Technology (MERIT).


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