Which Way is "Up" in Upgrading? Trajectories of Change in the Value Chain for South African Wine

Stefano Ponte*, Joachim Ewert

*Corresponding author for this work

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Global Value Chain (GVC) analysis uses the concept of upgrading to highlight paths for developing country firms to "move up the value chain," usually through the lenses of four categories-product, process, functional, and inter-sectoral upgrading. The implicit normative expectation is that these firms move toward producing higher value-added products and/or take on more sophisticated functions along a value chain. In this article, upgrading is approached more broadly as "reaching a better deal," including a balance between rewards and risk. The case study of South African wine shows that better product quality, improved processes, and some functional upgrading have co-existed with processes of "downgrading," higher risks, and limited rewards, especially in traditional export markets. A reflection on further conceptual development and directions for empirical research is also provided.
Original languageEnglish
JournalWorld Development
Issue number10
Pages (from-to)1637-1650
Number of pages14
Publication statusPublished - 2009
Externally publishedYes


  • Upgrading
  • Global Value Chain (GVC) analysis
  • Wine
  • South Africa

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