Trade, Technology, and Absorptive Capacity in the Tanzanian Textiles and Apparel Sector

This research is part of the project ‘Sustainable development solutions for Tanzania‘ – strengthening research to achieve SDGs, a collaborative project between the UONGOZI Institute in Dar es Salaam, Tanzania, and UNU-WIDER in Helsinki, Finland, with a main research objective of informing the development and implementation of policies aiming for economic transformation and sustainable development in Tanzania and the East African region. With financial support provided by the Ministry for Foreign Affairs of Finland, the joint project launched in 2018 with key questions giving the partners a framework for collaboration and the research work to be undertaken. The project focuses on macroeconomic perspectives, domestic resource mobilization, extractives, industrialization, sustainable livelihoods, and gender as a cross-cutting issue. The project provides local stakeholders a platform for research and policy discussions on Tanzania and bridges these discussions to the regional and international development debate.

Trade-linked technological change has potential to increase incomes in low-income countries (LICs). The most labour-intensive segments of the textiles and apparel global value chain are in LICs. However, gaps between available technologies and best practices make it difficult to adopt more efficient production processes or move into higher value-added functions. Our research examines current technology use in the Tanzanian textiles and apparel sector, using nationally representative secondary data, primary quantitative data, and qualitative information from semi-structured interviews. First, we examine whether firms’ absorptive capacity mediates the effect of imported technology on firm productivity. Second, we look at differences across geographical clusters of firms in terms of local linkage types. Third, we assess current technology, gaps in firms’ capabilities, and challenges in the sector to identify policy implications. Finally, we provide brief reflections on how firms in the Tanzanian textiles and apparel sector may adapt in the post COVID-19 recovery phase.

Project Outputs

UNU-WIDER Working Paper


Project details

start date
15 October 2019
end date
30 June 2020


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About this project



Image of Amrita Saha
Amrita Saha

Research Fellow

Image of Marco Carreras
Marco Carreras

Research officer

Andre Castro
Daniele Guariso

Recent work