Valueworks: Effects of Financialization along the Copper Value Chain
What are the effects of the financialisation of the commodity trading on local lives and what are the policy recommendations to be drawn for Swiss and international regulatory actors?


Over the last 15 years, Switzerland has emerged as a major global commodity-trading hub. Swiss traders take an intermediary position in commodity chains; they connect markets, influence the pricing process and, unintentionally, change the life-worlds of people around the world. The increased financialisation of commodity trading change the way value is ascribed to commodities.

The project will study the way decisions taken in Switzerland interact with these local life-worlds. It will analyse consequences of the financialisation of commodities trade by following one single commodity – copper – from mining pits and the surrounding communities in Zambia through towns and harbours on African transport corridors, through Swiss trading firms and banks to the sites of industrial production and recycling in China. The heuristic focus on one specific commodity will enable a study of reconfigurations in commodity chains, of their global consequences and of Switzerland’s role as one of the most important platforms of commodity trade worldwide.

The interdisciplinary project brings together experts on particular sites of copper’s journey with specialists on commodity chains. In cooperation between researchers based in international universities, Swiss and Southern NGOs and the United Nations Research Institute for Social Development (UNRISD), the project will explore the characteristics of transnational links and their consequences for social dynamics in particular sites.

The findings will contribute to a better understanding of global connections and will have direct results for policy interventions relating to transparency in the Swiss commodity sector, transnational policy coherence and sustainable development in the Global South. The research results will feed into policy recommendation for Swiss and international regulatory actors.


  • Extractive industries
  • Copper
  • Value Chain
  • Financialisation
  • Value
  • Global transit trade
  • Ethnography


  • Anthropology
  • Business
  • Development
  • Economics
  • Finance
  • Sociology


International Organisations


NGOs, state- or other institutions

  • Southern African Institute for Policy and Research (SAIPAR)
  • Swiss ADR, Apartheid Debt and Reparations Campaign

Relevant Countries

  • China
  • Switzerland
  • Zambia


This is an ongoing project, which started in autumn 2016. The information here is updated regularly. If you have any inquiries please don’t hesitate to contact the project team via the form below.

Contact the project team

7 + 14 =

Research team

Rita Kesselring
Universität Basel

Stefan Leins
Universität Zürich

Gregor Dobler
Principal Member
Albert-Ludwigs-Universität Freiburg im Breisgau

Marja Hinfelaar
Principal Member
Southern African Institute for Policy and Research (SAIPAR)

Katja Hujo
Principal Member
United Nations Research Institute for Social Development (UNRISD)

Ganga Jey Aratnam
Principal Member
Universität Basel

Yvan Schulz
Principal Member
Université de Neuchâtel

Christian Busse
Associated Member

Ellen Hertz
Associated Member
Université de Neuchâtel

Barbara Müller
Associated Member
Kampagne für Entschuldigung und Entschädigung im südlichen Afrika (KEESA)

Wilma Nchito
Associated Member
University of Zambia