Petty commodity, serious business: the governance of fashion jewellery chains between China and Ghana

This article by Heidi Østbø Haugen draws on an ethnographic study of China–Ghana fashion jewellery export to elucidate how petty commodity chains are governed.

Global Networks publishes high quality, peer-reviewed research on global networks, transnational affairs and practices, and their relation to wider theories of globalization.


In many parts of the world, people access consumer goods mainly via informal economic networks. In this article, I analyse the governance of petty commodity chains through a case study of Chinese fashion jewellery produced for the Ghanaian market. ‘Petty commodity chains’ denotes a particular type of global value chain, where production, trade, and distribution are carried out by small, unregistered businesses, between which personalized relationships and informal infrastructure enable transactions. These chains are neither controlled by lead firms at the production or distribution ends, nor made up of pure market linkages. Weak formal institutions and an intensely competitive commercial environment encourage business actors to establish enduring relationships. Credit relations run through long stretches of the chain and create mutual dependencies. The concept of ‘beholden value chains’ is introduced to describe the co-dependency between business actors and the coordination of activities in petty commodity chains.

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Published June 7, 2017 10:03 AM - Last modified Aug. 20, 2018 2:10 PM