Professor Lilac Nachum of the Allen G. Aaronson Department of Marketing & International Business has won a Fulbright U.S. Scholar Award for fall 2021 to study Ethiopian firms in the apparel and textile industries. She sat down for a Q&A about her award with Zicklin News.
Zicklin News: Tell us more about the research you will conduct as a Fulbright Scholar. What’s the crux of it?
Prof. Lilac Nachum: For the past two decades, Ethiopia’s government has resolutely adopted a policy of upgrading its economy via integration into global supply chains. The policy has been remarkably successful in transforming Ethiopia into a manufacturing hub for Africa. But this has had very little impact on local capabilities. Only a handful of local firms are able to supply the foreign firms operating in Ethiopia — in fact, exports by local firms account for less than 10 percent of the country’s exports. In my research, I’ll be looking at why this is the case. I will also seek to study Ethiopian firms that have successfully developed on their own, and critically evaluate the effectiveness of economic development via global integration.
ZN: So you’re saying Ethiopian firms haven’t played much of a role in Ethiopia’s supply chains, and that it’s mostly foreign firms that are based in the country that are supplying these goods to the outside world?
LN: That is correct. I will be asking why Ethiopian companies haven’t been able to develop enough to partner with and supply these foreign companies. What are the barriers that are preventing this?
ZN: Why examine textile companies in particular?
LN: In the context of economic development, the textile and apparel industries are usually the first stage by which emerging markets enter global supply chains — by making textiles, garments, and so on. These industries have played an enormous role in the development of many countries. They are also at the forefront of Ethiopia’s economic development policy and have been a major target of its government’s efforts to upgrade the economy.
ZN: Where in Ethiopia will you be conducting your research?
LN: I’ll be affiliated with two local universities: Bahir Dar University, located in the capital of the Amhara region, and Hawassa University in the Sidama region. Both universities have developed special expertise in the textile and apparel industry and have close connections to these industries.
ZN: Have you worked in Africa before?
LN: Yes, quite a bit. Almost a decade ago now, I spent a sabbatical as a visiting professor at the Lagos Business School in Nigeria. Through that experience I got involved with the Africa chapter of the Academy of International Business and traveled to the continent frequently to attend conferences and other events. I also spent some time in South Africa doing research in Johannesburg at the Gordon Institute of Business Science, which is part of the University of Pretoria. I am also engaged with the University of Kigali in Rwanda as a senior scholar and academic advisor.
ZN: Fascinating. Do you have any other news you’d like to share?
LN: Yes, I have a book coming out in a couple of months that is also related to this topic — how local firms in the textile and apparel industries interact with foreign firms. The book is entitled The Contest for Value in Global Value Chains. It outlines the ways by which the value created in the global apparel industry is being distributed among labor, manufacturers, global brands, and consumers, and identifies the respective sources of power of these constituencies to capture value. I got started on the subject when I was asked to do some consulting work on the garment industry in Bangladesh. The Fulbright Award will build on this prior research.