Page 19 - University of Pretoria RESEARCH REVIEW 2016
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How appropriate and transferable are the models from advanced economies when we do business in Africa?
Project Orbit at the Gordon Institute for Business Science (GIBS) is driven by an international research team with the specific aim of understanding business and responsible management in Africa. Led by Professors Nicola Kleyn and Helena Barnard, the team includes postdoctoral fellows, and several international scholars and business partners.
The project aims to gain understanding of how business is conducted in Africa, with a focus on the senior executives of finance, retail and agribusiness companies in Africa, whether they are multinational corporations from South Africa or Europe, or local champion firms.
Several themes were identified in the pilot phase
of the project, conducted in 2016 in Namibia, Botswana and Zimbabwe. It shows that many leaders rely on their faith to provide a moral compass in decision-making and strategy in sometimes fraught environments. Networks and relationships are critical to resilient organisations, and even relatively simple tasks such as logistics in a world with infrastructural and institutional voids are challenges to organisations.
One of the exemplar companies is Seed-Co Limited in Zimbabwe, a profitable and research-intensive company. Founded in 1940, and listed on the Zimbabwe Stock Exchange in 1996, the company has over the past decades demonstrated resilience under very challenging circumstances. From their innovative marketing to emerging farmers where agricultural extension is key, to their world-leading research and their commitment to learning French, to better understand Francophone Africa, they offer valuable lessons to firms from across the continent and beyond.
Too often business models from the developed world are uncritically exported to developing countries.
The intention with this project is to build models ‘from the ground up’, and from the lessons learned
Nicola Kleyn, Helena Barnard and Anastacia Mamabolo
in successful business and management. Taken together, the models of business and management that are investigated through this project seek to answer what makes for companies that are profitable in an innovative and non-exploitative manner in a turbulent environment.
Dr Anastacia Mamabolo, a postdoctoral fellow at GIBS, completed her doctoral studies in 2016. Her research interest is the connection between human capital and entrepreneurship in the broader African context. The focus of her PhD was on understanding how skills differ across the entrepreneurship phases, from nascent, to new and to established businesses. The study argued that entrepreneurs are too often treated the same, despite the phase that they are in and the skills they require to run their businesses effectively. Her detailed contribution has been the nature of skills required – entrepreneurial, technical, core business, social and leadership – as entrepreneurship unfolds.
In the second half of 2016, Dr Mamabolo participated in Project Orbit data collection in Namibia and Botswana, and interviewed
32 corporate-level executives. While Project Orbit works with management themes such as global strategies, corporate social responsibility, leadership, networks and institutional environment, her research focus remains on human capital development.
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