Business in Africa

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Why Entrepreneurship? Why Africa? Why Now?

Kevin Ibeh, Ven Sriram, Sonny Nwankwo and Tigi Mersha, editors of Palgrave Studies of Entrepreneurship in Africa, discuss Africa's economic breakthrough and the need for researchers to share their perspectives on this fast-changing continent.

Statistics and smart analysis abound, from global and regional development organizations, economic experts, and the business press, which reinforce the narrative of the 21st century as Africa’s probable breakthrough century. Often cited pointers include the continent’s recent sustained GDP growth (averaged 5% during 2001-2014; grew 51% in the last decade in eleven of sub-Saharan Africa’s largest economies, more than twice the world’s average); flourishing middle class and increasingly urbanized consumer base; and mounting “demographic dividend” accruing from trend-bursting population expansion (projected to rise to 1.7 billion by 2030 and 2.5 billion by 2050) and burgeoning youthful workforce. Other positively impactful indicators include rising educational and ICT penetration levels; successful democratic transitions; and increasing intra-African investments by rising African multinationals. 

As tantalizingly close as Africa’s economic breakthrough seems, it is far from inevitable. 

There have certainly been false dawns in the past, and the persisting prevalence of the usual challenges – significant shortcomings in governance, institutions and infrastructure; multi-faceted instabilities; and violent conflicts – suggests the need for caution. Such experience also calls for above-and-beyond effort to actualize, finally, Africa’s widely appreciated potential. What might this above-and-beyond effort entail? 

Magic bullets or golden keys hardly exist in reality, but lessons from other developing regions, notably across Asia and Latin America, point to entrepreneurship as a critical propeller of economic transformation. 

Indeed, the projected entry of 370 million African youths into the workforce in the next decade and half leaves the continent with no choice than to vigorously pursue an entrepreneurial revolution, to create jobs and raise living standards for Africa’s increasingly aspirational citizenry. What this challenge demands goes beyond subsistence entrepreneurship, traditionally the default response, to encompass opportunity-focused, scalable entrepreneurial businesses, powered by palpable entrepreneurial energies reverberating across the length and breadth of the continent. 
The present authors subscribe to the ‘self-evident truth’ that entrepreneurship offers a major gateway to Africa’s economic transformation. This conviction and the need to respond to the great thirst for nuanced insights on African entrepreneurship, amongst students, researchers, business, policy and third sector practitioners, explain our frontline engagement with the Palgrave Studies of Entrepreneurship in Africa.

This series offers a compelling platform for improving understanding of, and advancing, promoting and disseminating frontier ideas about, Afro-centric entrepreneurship. 

Researchers, practitioner-thought leaders and others with interest or insights on African entrepreneurship are strongly urged to take advantage of this new series to share knowledge and perspectives on one or more aspects of entrepreneurship in this fast-changing continent. This is particularly important given the need to redress the stark neglect of African entrepreneurship in the advanced economies-focused mainstream entrepreneurship research, as well as add to the scant body of quality publications on Africa, and by Africa-rooted authors – a situation arguably ameliorated, but not resolved by the recent inclusion of African countries in the Global Entrepreneurship Monitor and other similar databases. 
Rigid thematic prescriptiveness is not this series’ favored modus operandi, but contributions that demonstrate appropriate awareness of the state-of-the-art and pertinent contemporary changes in African entrepreneurship, recognize the limits of Western management practices in Africa whilst acknowledging global best practice, and adopt a solution-focused, rather than descriptive, approach in discussing the region’s famous challenges - managerial, technological, infrastructural, institutional and governance - would be particularly welcome. Contributors are encouraged to send in proposals that address topical and interesting themes, including, but not limited to entrepreneurial ecosystems; conceptualizing intractable challenges as opportunity spaces for innovation and entrepreneurship; value and job creating roles of entrepreneurial ventures, SMEs, women-owned enterprises, nascent African multinationals, etc.; digital entrepreneurship; diaspora flows, networks and entrepreneurship; international entrepreneurship; intra-African entrepreneurship; gender and entrepreneurship; informal versus growth-oriented entrepreneurship; and future research agenda for African entrepreneurship.
Finally, Palgrave Studies of Entrepreneurship in Africa recognizes that, being no identikit monoliths, Africa’s 55 countries, and groups within these countries, may manifest varying levels and types of entrepreneurial opportunities, challenges, motivations and behavior. Contributions at different levels of aggregations – single country, multi-country, sub-regional, sub-national – are therefore welcome, so are proposals exploring important entrepreneurial differences between and within countries.

We look forward to receiving your proposals.

Kevin Ibeh, Ven Sriram, Sonny Nwankwo and Tigi Mersha 
Editors, Palgrave Studies of Entrepreneurship in Africa


Acs, Szerb, and Jackson, 2013; Acquaah, Zoogah and Kwesiga, 2013; Africa Development Bank, 2015, 2016; Ayittey, 1991; Bloomberg, 2015; Bruton et al., 2008; Chironga et al., 2011; Chua, 2003; Decker, Estrin and Mickiewicz, 2016; Devine and Kiggundu, 2016; George et al., 2016; Ibeh and Nwankwo, 2014; Ibeh et al., 2017; Jackson, 2015; Kiggundu, 2013; KPMG, 2013; McKinsey Global Institute, 2010; Sriram, 2017; Terjesen et al., 2016; World Economic Forum, 2015.

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