The Effect of Institutional Capacity on Actor's Engagement in Industrial Symbiosis: A Case Study of the Lunga Lunga Area in Nairobi

Anita Lacher & Claudia Micula

Student thesis: Master thesis


There is an increased interest in sustainable development and green growth in the world due to the escalating environmental problems, which are particularly prevalent in the Global South. In Kenya, the transition towards a green economy is guided by their Green Economy Strategy and Implementation Plan. Simultaneously, the fostering of the manufacturing sector to achieve higher levels of economic development is emphasised in Kenya, yet industrial activity can lead to negative environmental impacts. Therefore, this thesis focuses on industrial symbiosis (IS), a practice that can reduce the environmental impact of industrial activities. The aim is to explore the current IS in the case of the Lunga Lunga area, and to investigate social aspects of IS and to answer the research question “How does the institutional capacity of the Lunga Lunga area affect the engagement of actors in industrial symbiosis?” To answer this research question, a critical realist perspective and an abductive approach have been chosen. Due to the low amount of available data on IS in Kenya, it has been considered suitable to perform a case study by gathering primary data during a field study in Nairobi in March 2018. The data has been collected through semi-structured interviews with 11 companies in the Lunga Lunga area and six experts. The analysis of this data has been based on an analytical framework suitable to analyse different aspects relevant for actors’ engagement in IS, which has been based on Spekkink’s (2015) work. The findings suggest that institutional capacity, in combination with the formal and informal institutions, affect the motivations and opportunity set of actors to engage in IS. The actors’ motivations and opportunity set affect the decisions taken, influencing the actors’ interactions and engagement in symbiotic exchanges, both by-product and utility synergies, potentially leading to a network of IS. Further, the interactions between actors can influence the institutional capacity in return, as well as the formal and informal institutions. Presently, the institutional capacity in the Lunga Lunga area is not strong enough to lead to IS. Trust depends on the actors involved and there is little knowledge sharing or mobilisation regarding IS, as there is no common vision related to environmental concerns. Therefore, although actors engage in symbiotic exchanges, these only represent kernels of IS.

EducationsMSc in Business, Language and Culture - Business and Development Studies, (Graduate Programme) Final Thesis
Publication date2018
Number of pages132