The effect of digitalization on sustainable development: the mediating role of open innovation in the agri-food industry focusing on the food processing sector in Ghana

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Sustainability has become so impeccable in today’s business that it is a fundamental requirement for all firms’ operations which necessitated the adoption of digitalization for the singular aim of achieving it. This study has become timely since the world bank required all African companies to be digitalized by 2030 as well as the advancement in its literacy skills advocacy on digitization to minimize post-harvest food waste, boost good dieting, and improve business networking opportunities. Lack of awareness of the importance of digitization in African Agro-processing firms impedes sustainability. Though there has been a very strong commitment to transform the economy by promoting equitable and sustainable development using digitalization agriculture and food processing, these efforts to industrialize the sector and make it attractive globally, the productivity rate is still very low as indicated by the World Food Programme. Despite this, scanty empirical studies have investigated the rate of digitization implementation and its impact on sustainability. As a result of that, this study sought to answer the research question ‘under what condition does digitalization drive sustainability?’ By way of objectives, the study sought to determine the relationship between digitization and sustainability, the relationship between open innovation and sustainability, and the mediating role of open innovation in the relationship between digitization and sustainability. From the dynamic capability theory perspective and Theory of Acceptance and Use of Technology perspective, a cross-sectional design and modified questionnaires from the literature were used to collect data from 170 CEOs/top managers of food processing firms in Ghana (Accra and Kumasi). It is a firm-level analysis. Data was analyzed with Mplus version 7.5, the Statistical Package for Social Sciences (SPSS), and the Hayes PROCESS Model. The results show that there was a significant relation between digitalization and sustainable development and an indirect effect of open innovation by driving digitalization to sustainable development. The study encouraged collaborative partnership in adopting digitalization through open innovation to drive sustainable development while recommending that policymakers employ holistic stakeholder engagement to promote digitalization in the sector. This study serves as a platform for future research to leverage their investigations on integrating the value chain of the Agri-food industry.
A thesis submitted to the department of supply chain and information systems, in partial fulfillment of the requirement for the award of the degree of master of philosophy: (logistics and supply chain management