Project C01, Future in Chains

Project Summary

Growth corridors are classic instruments for implementing visions of economic development, which have recently gained new attention in development-oriented policies that we view as “future-making”. Today, growth corridors are no longer confined simply to transport routes, but are conceived in a more sophisticated way as catalysts of regional economic integration of rural areas into global value chains. However, the outcomes of such spatial development initiatives are so far neither fully understood nor foreseeable. Critics argue that growth corridors increase conflicts, external dependencies, land rush, exclusion, and polarization of wealth. Against this background, our overall research question is: To what extent do growth corridor programs lead to desired and undesirable regional socio-economic effects?

The analysis will concentrate on the Walvis Bay-Ndola-Lubumbashi Development Corridor (WBNLDC) through the transnational KAZA conservation area and the Southern Agricultural Growth Corridor of Tanzania (SAGCOT), paying special attention to two value chains at the center of the corridor programs: staple crop production and commercial tourism. This contrasting perspective will allow us to compare both approaches in relation to their impacts not only on land-use change, but also on the inclusion of local farmers and touristic businesses vis-à-vis national policy makers, elites and multinational firms with different visions for future development.

Research Regions: Namibia, Tanzania

Keywords: Human Geography, Economic Geography

Key Questions

Research Objective 1: Structures and Characteristics of the Corridors

a.Who are main actors along the growth corridors (e.g. private international value chain actors, national elites, different public actors, further financial investors, and NGOs)?

b.What is the scope of foreign direct investment along the corridors? From where and from which branches do investors come? Which functions along the value chain do multinational enterprises (MNE’s) have along the corridors?

c.Which spatial manifestations of value-chain activities can be observed along the growth corridors (e.g. at gateway locations, rural production areas, and urban processing centers)? And which changes in land-tenure regimes and land use can be detected?

Research Objective 2: Future-Making - Visions and Governance of Corridors

a. How and by whom are the different corridor plans negotiated, shaped, controlled and enforced? How are the chains and corridors interacting (e.g. institutional and regulatory framework, different power relations and capabilities and capacities)?

b.What are the underlying ideas of future-making and visions behind the different corridor developments (targets, values, paradigms, investment decisions, interests and hidden agendas, power relations and conflicts)?

c.To what extent and by which means are local actors able to formulate (in the sense of a “capacity to aspire”, Appadurai 2013) and implement their own interests and visions on value creation and value capture in the corridor plans?

Research Objective 3: Effects - Participation and Integration of Local Businesses

a.How do the different visions and the governance in the two different corridor projects influence the division of labor along the growth corridors? Do the growth corridors lead to isolated enclaves driven by multinational firms or are local actors able to participate in global value chains?

b.How do local actors become integrated into value chain (forcing, adaptation and transformation processes) and if not, what impedes their value-chain integration?

c.Does the induced land-use change create negative externalities like environmental damages or harming businesses strategies of non-participants of the value chains?


Our project applies a social sciences-informed mixed method approach. We use in depth expert interviews and focus group discussions from long-term research stays to understand different wanted and unwanted futures associated with the mobilization of growth corridors as well as its materializations in form of value chains. Additionally, we use quantitative data from the CRC household survey, but also project-based business surveys to contextualize our qualitative data.

Key Findings

In the first phase of our project (2018-2021) we identified spatial structures, characteristics and dynamics of growth corridors including intended (e.g. economic growth) and unintended impacts on local businesses and livelihoods (e.g. household insecurities, exclusion, diversification). We could explain these impacts and dynamics partly through underlying visions and the governance of the corridors and their relations to global and regional value chains, national policies and donor activities. These included different practices of future making (i.e. emptying the future and claiming space) by powerful lead firms, national and international programmes and policies (e.g. KAZA), but also unintended developments from below. Here our results indicated that urban-rural and cross-border relations play a special role in value chain and corridor activities.


Aring M., Reichardt, O., Katjizeu, E., Luyanda, B., Hulke, C. (2021) ‘Collective Capacity to Aspire? Aspirations and livelihood strategies in the Zambezi region, Namibia’, The European Journal of Development research. (Forthcoming)

Breul, M., Hulke, C., and Kalvelage, L. (2021) 'Path formation and reformation: studying the variegated consequences of path creation for regional development', Economic Geography, (Forthcoming).

Dannenberg, P. and Hartmann, G. (2019) 'Stairway to Heaven oder Highway to Hell? Neue Entwicklungskorridore am Beispiel SAGCOT in Tansania' 2019 (11) pp.42-46.

Dannenberg, P., Revilla Diez, J. and Schiller, D. (2018) 'Spaces for integration or a divide? New-generation growth corridors and their integration in global value chains in the Global South', Zeitschrift für Wirtschaftsgeographie, 62(2), pp. 135-151.

Hartmann, G., Mwaka, I. and Dannenberg, P. (2021) 'Large investments, small farmers: A financialisation perspective on value chains in a development corridor', Development Southern Africa, (38(1), pp. 122-138.

Hartmann, G., Nduru, G. and Dannenberg, P. (2020) 'Digital connectivity at the upstream end of value chains: A dynamic perspective on smartphone adoption amongst horticultural smallholders in Kenya', Competition & Change, 25(2), pp. 167-189.

Hulke, C., Kairu, J. and Revilla Diez, J. (2020) 'Global Visions, Local Realities – How Conservation Shapes Agricultural Value Chains in Zambezi Region, Namibia', Development Southern Africa (online first).

Kalvelage, L., Revilla Diez, J. and Bollig, M. (2020) 'How much remains? Local value capture from tourism in Zambezi, Namibia', Tourism Geographies, (online first).

Kalvelage, L., Revilla Diez, J. and Bollig, M. (2020) 'Do tar roads bring tourism? Growth corridor policy and tourism development in the Zambezi region, Namibia', The European Journal of Development research.

Gargallo. E. and Kalvelage, L. (2020) 'Integrating Social-Ecological Systems and Global Production Networks: Local Effects of Trophy Hunting in Namibian Conservancies', Development Southern Africa, (online first).

Parshotam, A. and Revilla Diez, J. (2019) 'Economic Growth Corridors Through a Value-Chain Lens: The Case of the Southern Agricultural Growth Corridor in Tanzania', in Scholvin, S., Black, A., Revilla Diez, J. & Turok, I. (eds.) Value Chains in Sub-Saharan Africa. Heidelberg: Springer, pp. 61-77.

Müller-Mahn, D., Dannenberg, P. and Klagge, B. (2019) 'Das ländliche Afrika im Umbruch: Entwicklungskorridore und die Transformation des Agrarsektors', Geographische Rundschau. 2019 (11) pp. 10-16.

Steffens, V., Hartmann, G. and Dannenberg, P. (2019) 'Eine neue Generation von Wachstumskorridoren als Entwicklungsmotor in Afrika?', Standort, 43, pp. 2-8.

Tups. G., Dannenberg, P. (2021): Emptying the Future, Claiming Space: The Southern Agricultural Growth Corridor of Tanzania as a Spatial Imaginary for Strategic Coupling Processes. Geoforum, Volume 123, pp. 23-35. DOI

Outlook for phase II (2022 - 2025)

The observed uneven spatial manifestation and evolution of the unintended economic dynamism requires a deeper understanding of the developmental effects of the growth corridors. This shall be achieved by the following three guiding research questions: How do cross-border growth corridors affect the territorial configuration of value chains? To what extent do territorial configurations shaped by growth corridors affect the evolution of existing and emerging value chains? To what extent can local value chain actors appropriate growth corridor dynamics and turn these into desirable futures? To do this, we will expand our conceptual framework on corridor and value chain analysis by adding a further relational perspective on cross-border territory and on regional path creation.

Partner Institutions