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Licensed Unlicensed Requires Authentication Published by De Gruyter January 26, 2018

Analysing the effects of information and communication technologies (ICTs) on the integration of East African farmers in a value chain context

Madlen Krone and Peter Dannenberg


Insufficient access to markets, limited financial transactions, and a lack of information and knowledge often restrict opportunities for small-scale farmers to link up with commercial value chains in Sub-Saharan Africa. Advances in information and communication technologies (ICTs), especially mobile phones and the internet, have expanded the possibility to communicate across geographical distances and to integrate into commercial value chains. By using a novel combination of conceptual considerations on ICTs, value chains, and relational proximity, this paper assesses: 1. How the use of ICTs affects the integration of small-scale farmers into the value chains (by analysing the information and knowledge flow, the financial and market transactions) and 2. to what extent the use of ICTs is on the other side influenced by the value chain context (i.e. the structure and coordination of the chain and the relational proximity between farmer and buyer). Our findings showed that even simple ICTs (phones) can lead to improvements for farmers to integrate into the chain as they facilitate simple information and complex knowledge flow, financial transactions, and market access, even though a greater structural transformation was absent. However, our results showed that the extent of the effects depends on the context in the value chains, in particular their structure, coordination, and the relational proximity between the actors. In this way, this paper contributes to the conceptual discussions on information and communication for development (ICT4D) and the dynamics in value chains.

Funding source: Deutsche Forschungsgemeinschaft

Award Identifier / Grant number: DA1128/4–1

Funding statement: This work was supported by the German Research Foundation (DFG) [DA1128/4–1].


We are grateful to the people in Kenya and Tanzania who contributed their time and valuable insights to our research. We thank the anonymous reviewers of this manuscript for their constructive feedback. We also want to express our gratitude to Gilbert Nduru (Karatina), Alexander Follmann (Cologne), Sandra Kurfürst (Cologne), Franziska Sohns (Cologne) for their valuable input to earlier versions of the manuscript.


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Received: 2017-7-18
Accepted: 2017-12-15
Published Online: 2018-1-26
Published in Print: 2018-3-26

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