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Arbeitsgruppe Wirtschaftsgeographie und Globaler Süden


Regions are facing several challenges triggered by enforced structural change and increased interdependence of economic processes – as a result of an intensified globalization. As a consequence, there are simultaneous processes of growth, stagnation and decline across the globe. The research focus of our working group are regions at different development levels.




The actor-centered research activities are concentrated in the following fields:

  • Innovation: Technological upgrading along global value chains in varying regional innovation systems from world cities to rural areas.
  • Transformation: Regional effects of transformation processes in those countries which are characterized by both a transition from a planned to a market economy and by drastic institutional changes.
  • Vulnerability: Impacts of natural risks on the relationship between people and their environment in order to get a better understanding of the dynamics of urban poverty as well as to develop sustainable strategies to overcome social and regional disparities.

The regional focus is on Europe, Southeast and East Asia and Africa, with current research projects in Vietnam, Thailand, Indonesia, China, Brazil, South Africa, Namibia, Zambia, Botswana and Argentina.


As we look back on the past year, we are filled with gratitude for the opportunity to work on so many different projects and topics with such a talented and dedicated team. And as is tradition in our working group, we got together for a small Christmas party with delicious food from different countries, wine from Spain, beer from Germany and our new tradition: Christmas Bingo!


The CO1 crew rocked the CRC Retreat 2023 in Steinfeld from November 8-10! We dove deep into the second phase of the CRC 228 project (which will be completed in 2025) and reviewed our progress. Of particular note is the interdisciplinary research that is fostering collaboration between the projects. In addition, CO1 is planning a special issue on infrastructures and is working on a series of papers to improve our teamwork.  #CRC228Magic #TeamCO1 #


On November 9th and 10th, 2023, Emma Galbraith took part in the annual conference of the Industrial Geography Working Group in Naurod. Emma presented the DFG project "Beyond offshoring: tradable services and regional value chains in the Global South" and presented her own initial research ideas, which she would like to pursue further as part of her doctorate. Intensive discussions and valuable feedback rounded off the conference.


Foto: Peter Kiefer, Goethe-Universität Frankfurt

From 25 to 30 September, the German Congress of Geography took place in Frankfurt. Our working group not only presented its own research, but also organised four sessions: Javier Revilla Diez led sessions on food insecurity and the role of socio-economic scenarios in climate adaptation.;Linus Kalvelage focused on geographical perspectives on the biodiversity crisis and questioned the current state of environmental economic geography. The discussions at the congress underlined the relevance of economic geography for addressing global challenges and also stimulated new research perspectives.


We are pleased to welcome Emma Galbraith as a new member of our research group! Emma Galbraith will start her PhD studies under the supervision of Prof. Javier Revilla Diez and support the working group as a research assistant. As part of the DFG-funded project "Beyond offshoring: tradable services and regional value chains in the Global South", she is researching regional value chains of tradable services and their regional economic effects in Southeast Asia.


Together with colleagues Grote, Kis-Katos and Thanh Nguyen, Javier Revilla Diez is organising the International TVSEP Data User Workshop which will take place online on 12 and 13 September 2023 with participants from Southeast Asia and Germany. The Thailand Vietnam Socio Economic Panel (TVSEP) is a research project on "Poverty and Sustainable Development: A Long-Term Panel Project in Thailand and Vietnam, 2015 - 2024", funded by the German Research Foundation (DFG). Here you can find more information on how to participate free of charge as well as the programme for the online workshop.


 From 14th to 17th June 2023, Ledys Franco, Carolin Hulke, Linus Kalvelage and Mfundo Mlilo attended the annual conference of the Regional Studies Association "Transforming Regions: Policy and Planning for People and Places" in Ljubljana, Slovenia. The team presented ongoing research from our working group on regional value chains, green path development, change agency and growth corridors. Intense discussions and a beautiful city made this a truly memorable stay.


Prof. Revilla Diez is grateful for having received the Albertus Magnus Teaching Award:

“Today I have to share this: I am very honored and proud to have received the Albertus-Magnus-Teaching award from our faculty. This is very motivating for me to keep trying to make teaching interesting and challenging. This award is very special to me as it is based on students’ votes. Many thanks!”

Javier Revilla Diez, Carolin Hulke, Linus Kalvelage, and Fenny Nakanyete participated in the European Conference on African Studies (ECAS) at the University of Cologne from 30 May to 3 June. In different panels on topics such as the potential contribution of regional value chains to food security and tourism and environmental protection in times of the Covid 19 pandemic, they presented their current research results. In a panel discussion, Fenny Nakanyete also discussed the question of the future of African Studies in Europe with other international guests.


The hybrid CBNRM Science Workshop on Regional and Local Development Strategies in Namibian Conservancies took place on 27th April 2023. Thereby, Carolin Hulke, Linus Kalvelage and Javier Revilla Diez shared insights into their research results on tourism and agriculture development in conservancies in the Zambezi Region (CRC228 "Future Rural Africa" - C01 "Future in Chains"). In a discussion with different stakeholders from the agriculture and conservation/tourism sectors, the results and future development paths for Namibian conservancies were discussed.



In February/March 2023, Linus Kalvelage travelled along the coast of South Africa and Namibia to investigate recent investments in green hydrogen. He interviewed government officials and entrepreneurs in Cape Town, Lüderitz, Walvis Bay and Windhoek, among other places, about the opportunities to use green hydrogen as a driver for investment, as well as the challenges of the energy transition, such as the high costs of the required technologies, the current lack of infrastructure and the shortage of skilled labour.

During his field research in Subsaha Africa, Mfundo Mlilo meets with entrepreneurs and political leaders to trace the evolution of the tourism value chains. Using the trinity of change concept, we compare tourism developments in Namibia, Botswana, and Zimbabwe. We have collected essential lessons about various stakeholders' roles in tourism development. Watch out for our upcoming paper discussing the relevance of this concept in tourism developments in the Global South. 



„Development beyond global integration?“ - Dissemination of finding

To finalise the first phase of the SFB "Future Rural Africa", Carolin Hulke together with Javier Revilla Diez presented the results of her PhD thesis in feedback workshops with local stakeholders. In cooperation with the Zambezi Horticulture Association (ZAHOPA), they organized discussions in the rural areas of the Zambezi region, Namibia. These brought together smallholder horticulture farmers with conservancies to discuss the links between conservation and agriculture. The results were shared with relevant stakeholders in Windhoek and the Zambezi region to increase the impact of the research project and contribute to the sustainable design of development pathways. 

On 19 January 2023, Prof. Javier Revilla Diez gave a lecture at the London School of Economics on the development corridors that have been established in Africa over the last decades. This should lead to more knowledge and prosperity, but implementation is not always easy and not everyone benefits from increasing turnovers. Mr. Revilla Diez explains the reasons for the unequal distribution of profits using Namibia's tourism industry as an example. Here, more investment, more national commitment and more leadership at the local level would be needed.


The paper “The impact of commodified non-timber forest products on the livelihoods of San in Northern Namibia” that Fenny Nakanyete co-authored with her PhD advisors, Prof. Revilla and Prof. Matengu, was published in Development of Southern Africa this January. This publication aims to contribute to the scientific and practical discussions on the impacts of NTFPs (non-timber forest products) integrated in regional and global value chains on vulnerable communities that depend on forests, in order to improve their economic development. The paper analysed how the non-timber forest product value chains are integrated into and support the livelihoods of Khwe and !Xun San harvesters of Northern Namibia.Through a mixed-method approach of data collection in Okongo Constituency and Bwabwata National Park, it is shown that although NTFPs contribute to the harvesters’ income generation, the income is insufficient to sustain their livelihoods. Therefore, integrating regional and global value chains does not result in an improved standard of living for these indigenous communities. The open access paper can be found here.


We are happy to welcome Justina Nangolo as a new member of our working group! Justina will start her Ph.D. studies under the direct supervision of Prof Javier Revilla Diez. She is pursuing a degree in Economic Geography with a special focus on the socio-economic (intended and unintended) outcomes of growth corridors in Namibia and Tanzania. Her research interest lies in the integration of Geoscience into the decision-making process for rural development purposes.


Carolin Hulke attended the Regional Studies Association Winter Conference in London in November, where she presented findings from a recent study on the impact of Covid-19 on regional resilience in Namibia („Navigating through the storm: conservancies as local institutions for regional resilience in Zambezi, Namibia“). Using the example of conservancies in the Zambezi region, the study highlights the central role of local institutions in the redistribution of investments for long-term adaptation to crises.


Welcome back! After an intermezzo as scientific coordinator of the Collaborative Research Center "Future Rural Africa", Dr. Linus Kalvelage has returned to the Institute of Geography. As a postdoctoral researcher he will support the research group "Economic Geography and the Global South" in research and teaching. In addition to his previous research focus on nature conservation and tourism in Southern Africa, he will work on green innovations and renewable energies.


We are happy to welcome Ledys Franco at our institute! Ledys Franco is a PhD student in Applied Economics with a Mention in Regional Studies at the Universidad Católica del Norte, visits us from Antofagasta Chile for six months to work closely with Prof. Dr. Revilla Diez, Javier and her advisor Prof. Dr. Miguel Atienza to carry out her doctoral internship entitled “Differences in Trade Corridors Evolution. An approach to experience of African and South American Corridors from the perspective of Governance and Global Value Chains”. 


We are happy to welcome Luong Thi Han as a new member of our working group! Luong Thi Han has started her PhD at the University of Cologne since the summer semester of 2022 and is working under the supervision of  Prof. Dr. Revilla. Her research interest lies in Social entrepreneurship and Social Innovation. At the moment, her academic work focuses on the factors that influence the intention of an individual to create a social enterprise in Vietnam.


Under the leadership of Javier Revilla Diez and Carolin Hulke, 21 Master students were on an excursion to Namibia from 23rd July - 06th August 22; the planning and realisation was supported by Fenny Nakanyete and other colleagues from the University of Namibia. In addition to exploring the landscape and wildlife, there were also intensive insights into Namibia's colonial history, current development strategies, and social and economic challenges. A more detailed insight can be found on the Instagram account of the excursion:

From 7th to 10th of June, the 6th "Global Conference on Economic Geography" took place in Dublin. In different sessions, Javier Revilla Diez and Carolin Hulke presented the results from the project "Future Rural Africa", among others on the role of growth corridors for inclusive regional development and the organization of regional value chains in horticulture in Namibia.


We are happy to welcome Mfundo Mlilo as a new member of our working group! Within the SFB "Future Rural Africa. Future-making and social-ecological transformation" he is doing research on the project "Future in Chains - Socio-Economic Impacts of Growth Corridors". His research focus is Evolutionary Economic Geography with the focus on value chains in tourism as well as cities and socio-spatial justice.


On Wednesday, April 27, 2022 Carolin Hulke successfully defended her PhD thesis "Development beyond global integration: Livelihood strategies, small-scale agriculture, and regional value chains in Namibian conservation areas". Congratulations!


Within the collaborative research center "Future Rural Africa. Future-making and social-ecological transformation" Prof. Revilla Diez is in charge of the project "Future in Chains - Socio-Economic Impacts of Growth Corridors". As part of this project, we are pleased to welcome Jim Kairu from the University of Namibia as a visiting scholar from February to April 2022. The focus of his research is on the contribution of wildlife resource conservation in the ecotourism value chain in Sikunga Copnservancy.

On February 2, 2022, the participants of the field internship "Structural Change in the Rheinische Revier Area" led by Prof. Dr. Revilla Diez and Dr. Moritz Breul presented the results of their study projects to representatives of the Zukunftsagentur Rheinisches Revier. The study projects examined the prerequisites of the Rheinische Revier for the development or expansion of the (1) photovoltaic industry, (2) wind energy industry, (3) hydrogen economy and the (4) fuel cell production.




On November 25th and 26th, 2021, Moritz Breul participated in this year's Industrial Geography Working Group Meeting. Due to the pandemic situation, the event took place online. During the event, the organization of the Working Group Meeting Industrial Geography 2022 was handed over to Javier Revilla Diez and Moritz Breul.


Fenny Nakanyete, who is doing her binational doctorate jointly at the University of Cologne and the University of Namibia, is working since November 2021 here in our working group to conduct part of her data collection and to work closely with Prof. Dr. Revilla Diez. Her PhD research study entitled “Indigenous Knowledge For Sustainable Livelihoods: Exploring Forest Products’ Value Chains for the Khwe and !Xun San in Bwabwata National Park and Okongo Community Forest of Namibia” follows national and international value chains of the indigenous forest products in an attempt to evaluate why indigenous San people are currently not sustainably participating in these value chains.


At the end of the first phase of the Collaborative Research Center 228: "Future Rural Africa", Prof. Javier Revilla Diez and Dr. Linus Kalvelage travelled to the retreat at the Steinfeld Monastery in the Eifel from Nov. 3 - Nov. 5, 2021. Besides the recapitulation of the first phase, the focus was on the strategic planning of the second project phase. In strict compliance with the 2G rule, all project participants were able to meet in person for the first time since the outbreak of the pandemic.


On October 13th and 14th, 2021, the NoRSA-ESPON conference took place. In the session "New path formation and regional restructuring" Moritz Breul presented the article "Path Formation and Reformation: Studying the Variegated Consequences of Path Creation for Regional Development". The articel can be accessed here; a recording of the presentation  here.


Carolin Hulke is spending October and November 2021 as a visiting scholar at the Global Development Institute at the University of Manchester. The research group "global production networks, trade and labor" deals with the organization of global production under the influence of state actors and polycentric trade structures as well as the challenges of sustainable development.



On 19th July 2021, Linus Kalvelage successfully defended his dissertation entitled "Capturing value from wildlife tourism: growth corridors and global production networks". Congratulations!


Policies and research on raising the living standard of rural populations in countries of the Global South have often been centered on agricultural interventions, but they underestimate aspirations as one of the fundamental drivers of behaviour. The European Journal of Development Research Special Issue (Volume 33, issue 4, July 2021), edited by Kai Mausch, Dave Harris and Javier Revilla Diez, now offers new approaches for understanding these aspirations and their implications for development planning. A virtual roundtable discussion on the Issue and its key findings will be hosted by the guest editors and is due to take place on 26th August 2021.


On July 7, 2021, the students of the field trip "Strukturwandel im Rheinischen Revier", led by Prof. Dr. Revilla Diez and Dr. Breul, presented their research results to representatives of the Zukunftsagentur Rheinisches Revier. The topics included (1) the impact of lignite phase-out on municipalities in the Rhenish coalfield, (2) diversification strategies of incumbents in the Rhenish lignitefield and (3) the importance of inter-municipal cooperation in shaping structural change.



In Latin America, too, high hopes are being placed in development corridors. The Bioceanico development corridor connects the four countries Argentina, Brazil, Chile and Peru. To discuss experiences from around the world, the Institute of Agrarian and Rural Studies (IDEAR) organized a workshop on 21rst June 2020. Prof. Revilla Diez presented results from the SFB TR 228 "Future Rural Africa: Future in chains – socio-economic impacts of growth corridors".


In June 2021, the conference of the Association for African Studies in Germany: "Africa Challenges" took place. Carolin Hulke gave the presentation "Regional value chains & rural development - Interpath relations between the tourism & horticulture sector in rural Namibia" on opportunities and risks of the emerging tourism sector in the Zambezi region. Linus Kalvelage dealt with the integration of wildlife into the value chain of hunting tourism under the title "Resource-making in Zambezi: who benefits from hunting tourism?"


For his project proposal “Setting the course for lignite mining regions in transition – Unpacking the pre-formation phase of path creation” Moritz Breul was awarded the prestigious Regional Studies Association Early Career Grant. The grant will allow Moritz Breul to investigate to what extent the configuration of regional policy-making processes in the Lausitz and Rhineland shape the direction of regional transformation strategies in the two lignite mining regions.   


As part of the event "#Revier2030. Mit Struktur in den Wandel", an event organized by the state of North Rhine-Westphalia which focused on the future of the Rhenish mining region after the end of lignite-fired power generation, Prof. Revilla Diez was part of a panel of experts. In this context, he assessed the potentials and challenges of structural change in the Rhenish mining area from an economic geography perspective.



The April 2021 meeting of the American Association of Geographers was held in the digital space. Carolin Hulke presented parts of her research on agricultural value chains in her presentation "Governing Regional Value Chains - Institutional layering in the horticulture sector in Namibia" and summarized results of her article (under review in Applied Geography): Collective action promotes the integration of smallholder farmers into regional value chains; national agricultural policy needs to take up these structures and support them with an appropriate institutional setting so that the region actually benefits.

"What do decision makers in policy and practice need to know about risk and adaptation futures?” Roxana Leitold is contributing to the 2020 Summer Academy on World Risk and Adaptation Futures: Social Protection and helps to advance the understanding of climate change adaptation and social protection for policy decision making. The Summer Academy is organized by the UNU-EHS and MRF, in collaboration with the UNFCCC.


With a short article on the research in the Zambezi region, Linus Kalvelage and Javier Revilla Diez participated in the launch of the new online publication "Tourism Geographic". The aim of this format is to make scientific articles from the journal "Tourism Geographies" accessible to a wider audience. The article can be read here:


This winter semester 2020/21, master students from the Institute of Geography are investigating the effects of the lignite phase-out in the Rheinische Revier area as part of a field internship led by Moritz Breul and Javier Revilla Diez. On December 11, the students presented their project ideas to the Zukunftsagentur Rheinisches Revier, which accompanies the structural change on site.



Roxana Leitold successfully defended her PhD thesis "Private sector engagement in flood risk reduction and climate change adaptation - Insights from manufacturing firms in Ho Chi Minh City, Vietnam" on 26th November 2020. Roxana Leitold analyzed the extent to which manufacturing firms are vulnerable to flooding and the factors that influence the flood adaptation strategies of enterprises in Ho Chi Minh City. Well done!