Coffee Markets in East Africa: Local Responses to Global Challenges or Global Responses to Local Challenges?

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This paper is based on preliminary findings of a research project entitled ‘Globalisation and African Agriculture: The Restructuring of Coffee Marketing Systems in East Africa’. The project is part of the research programme ‘Globalisation and Economic Restructuring in Africa’ (GLAF) at the Centre for Development Research, Copenhagen. The points of departure of the GLAF programme are both theoretical and empirical: (1) to extend and sharpen the theoretical resources for studying changes in global commodity chains as historical processes; and (2) to discuss and clarify the implications of current changes in the global economy for ‘marginal’ regions like Africa. The seven projects under the GLAF umbrella cover key commodity chains originating in Africa (cocoa, coffee, cotton, citrus, clothing, World/Afrcan music) and related cross-cutting themes (changes in transport and logistics, the evolution of financial and commodity markets). Available published materials to date include: an overview of theoretical issues (Raikes, Jensen and Ponte 2000); an analysis of export crop agriculture in Africa (Raikes and Gibbon 2000); examinations of upgrading in ‘traditional’ primary commodity markets (Gibbon 2000a; 2001); a case study of cotton in Zimbabwe (Larsen 2001); a case study of the clothing chain in Mauritius (Gibbon 2000b); and an analysis of the transport and logistics sector in Ghana (Pedersen 2001). This paper is the second of a series of studies on coffee. The first paper (Ponte 2001b) examined the transformation of the global coffee marketing chain and its repercussions in developing countries. The present paper compares domestic models of regulation (in Kenya, Tanzania, and Uganda) and how they mediate changes in the global coffee chain at the national and local levels. In the short term, it will be followed by an examination of quality conventions in the cocoa and coffee chains in West and East Africa and by an in-depth case study of coffee market liberalisation in Tanzania. I am indebted to Peter Gibbon and Colin Poulton for their comments on earlier drafts of this paper. The usual caveats apply