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Project: Value Chains Capacity Building

We supported trade unions in ten countries in sub-Saharan Africa to renew their bargaining and organising strategies for tackling inequality in global value chains.

The LRS Value Chains Capacity Building Project works with established trade union networks in Africa, supporting their ability to develop renewed strategies for organising and bargaining to confront inequality in global value chains.

Target group 

The primary target group is trade union officials and worker leaders in UNI Global Africa-led Shop Stewards Alliance networks. 

The project set out to build on the potential of the three Multinational Corporations (MNC) retail networks by introducing the UNI Global Union in Africa and its affiliates to value chain analysis. The three South African MNCs (Shoprite, Pick n Pay and Massmart/Walmart) are among the increasingly dominant retail role players in the regional value chains, and reportedly employ over 250,000 workers on the continent. 

Project objectives

Trade unions involved in the project have developed ideas for the expansion of their negotiating power and their organising range along the value chain. They are thus better able to counter inequalities along the value chain and to ensure that core labour standards and social standards are respected and the working conditions and the standard of living of workers and their dependents in sub-Saharan Africa are improved.

The work

57 participants (60% male, 40% female) covering 10 countries and 11 trade unions organising in the retail sector participated in the value chains project, which was implemented from 2017 to 2019, with the support of The German Trade Union Confederation, DGB Bildungswerk Bund.

South Africa | Lesotho | Mozambique | eSwatini | Zambia | Botswana | Zimbabwe | Kenya | Tanzania | Uganda


The project outcomes achieved through workshops and research outputs include;

  • Developing an understanding of value chain analysis within trade unions in Africa
  • Translating value chain analysis for trade unions 
  • Reflecting on the implications of value chain analysis for two key functions of trade unions – collective bargaining and organising.

Top 5 key themes

The project participants found the messages particularly engaging: 

Mapping workers in the value chain: improved understanding of recruiting processes and the types of workers and jobs in a value chain 

Unequal power in the value chain: identified strategies for confronting the power imbalance across value chains

Value chain mapping tools: the effective tools for mapping all workers across the value chain

Collaborationfirm commitments to sharing information within unions and between countries across to support organising and collective bargaining processes

Legislative and policy environmentsdo they support or disrupt union organising? 


“We have developed an action plan in our union in collaboration with trade unions within the value chain to ensure proper representation of all workers. The major change is in how I see and perceive things. I can link and trace the players within the value chains, gauge the importance and power of each exercise and hold it within the value chain.” - Trade union official 

“The methodology used by the LRS was good. We were provided with practical examples, for example, mobile phones and shoes, to demonstrate the way value is distributed in the manufacture and retail of these products. The learning was very participatory, and we got the opportunity to hear the experiences of other countries.” - Shop steward 

“Due to the value chains project, our union is reviewing our constitution with the intention of expanding our coverage to organise all workers in all the sectors of the value chain. I have been asked to lead the team looking at the potential new sectors to organise in our value chain, including the 'invisible sector', the workers that are often overlooked in workplaces." - Trade union official 


Tackling inequality in value chains in sub-Saharan Africa
Breaking the Chain: Value chain analysis as a tool for renewing trade union bargaining and organising strategies | Extracted from LRS Bargaining Indicators 2019
eSwatini Success story: Using a GFA to organise Shoprite workers
Building trade unions in Africa - Translating value chains analysis into trade union strategy
Global framework agreements for Africa - using the space created

Key project contactTrenton Elsley | [email protected]