Is Africa ready to develop a competitive bioeconomy? The case of the cassava value web in Ghana

Poku, A.-G., Birner, R., and S. Gupta (2018): Is Africa ready to develop a competitive bioeconomy? The case of the cassava value web in Ghana. Journal of Cleaner Production 200:134-147.


The increasing global demand for diverse biomass-based products such as food, feed and fuel can transform African agriculture from a food-supplying to a biomass-supplying and processing sector in the growing international bioeconomy. This study addresses the requisite policy and institutional environment needed to foster the development of a competitive and sustainable bioeconomy in Africa. The paper uses the case of cassava in Ghana for an empirical case study. The novel concept of biomass-based value webs, that is, interlinked agricultural value chains, is combined with Porter’s Diamond model to analyse the extent to which Ghana is positioned to develop a competitive cassava value web. Empirical data collection involved mapping the physical biomass flows, applying the ‘Net-Map’ tool to identify all the actors in the emerging value web and their linkages, as well as in-depth interviews with the identified actors. The study finds that despite the huge opportunities for cassava biomass in Ghana, there are coordination problems between farmers, processors and industrial end-users. This has hindered the potential for increased cassava production, processing and utilisation. There is also generally a lack of private sector initiatives in the development of new cassava based products. Accordingly, industrial end-users tend to depend on imported alternatives. Unsuccessful government initiatives and the absence of legislation such as a composite flour policy or a biofuel blend policy have also been major contributing factors to the unrealised industrial potential of cassava in Ghana. The findings therefore suggest that competitive cassava utilisation in the emerging bioeconomy hinges on stronger institutional linkages between value web actors and government support mainly in the form of local content policies that encourage the use of cassava based products.

Keywords: Bioeconomy, Value web, Diamond model, Cassava, Africa, Ghana

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