Discovery of the flower industry in Ethiopia: experimentation and coordination

Mulu Gebreeyesus & Michiko Iizuka


This paper examines the discovery process of a recent and extraordinarily successful, nontraditional, export activity in developing country – namely the flower industry in Ethiopia. To be able to break into non-traditional exports, developing countries do not need to invent new products, but mainly producing at lower cost goods that are already established in the world markets. This necessitates tapping into the global pool of knowledge and diffusion of the imported technology in the course of experimentation. This is an ongoing learning process which involves continuous interaction among different actors, institutions and networks. The paper adopts a functional innovation systems framework in a catching-up country context, to map the dynamics of the interactions among various actors in the discovery process and how success was achieved. It provides detailed information on sector development based on a recently conducted census of all flower farms in Ethiopia and follow-up interviews with industry leaders and policy makers. The study highlights the strategic collaboration required between government and the private sector in the promotion of a non-traditional export in a developing country. It should enrich our understanding of development strategies in the context of an increasingly globalized world.

Keywords: non-traditional exports, developing countries, functions of innovation systems

JEL: 033, 025, 055

UNU-MERIT Working Papers ISSN 1871-9872

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