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Entrepreneurship & Regional Development

For a Special Issue on

Developing Entrepreneurial Ecosystems in Africa: Opportunities for Sustainable Development

Manuscript deadline
28 February 2025

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Special Issue Editor(s)

Benson Honig, DeGroote School of Business, McMaster University, Canada
[email protected]

Juliana Siwale, Nottingham Business School, Nottingham Trent University, UK
[email protected]

Olu Aluko, Nottingham Business School, Nottingham Trent University, UK
[email protected]

Erik Stam, Utrecht University School of Economics, The Netherlands
[email protected]

Kenneth Amaeshi, European University Institute, Italy
[email protected]

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Developing Entrepreneurial Ecosystems in Africa: Opportunities for Sustainable Development

Despite the growing focus on entrepreneurial ecosystems within academia (Stam 2015; Spigel, 2017; Audretsch et al., 2019; Scheidgen, 2021; Wurth et al., 2022) and by policymakers (Drexler et al., 2014), research on how entrepreneurial ecosystems support entrepreneurs and lead to sustainable development in Africa lags behind research conducted elsewhere. We still do not fully understand the underlying ecosystem factors that influence entrepreneurs and entrepreneurship growth in African economies (Lafuente et al, 2023). This lack of research on Africa represents an omission, in itself, but is even more striking given the specific context of the African continent:

1) The African continent has the youngest population on earth. According to the World Bank, the population of people aged 15-24 in Africa is projected to reach 500 million by 2080 (World Bank, 2023). This so-called “demographic dividend” can be a major market to stimulate entrepreneurship by young people. However, without sufficiently developed entrepreneurial ecosystems this entrepreneurship may not materialise (Minniti et al., 2024).

2) The African continent has the lowest levels of wellbeing (including the lowest incomes and the highest unemployment rates) and faces huge societal challenges. The question is how and why, and under what conditions entrepreneurship can be part of the solution, and contribute to sustainable development (Atiase et al., 2018; Edoho, 2015; George et al., 2016).

3) The African continent is very rich in natural resources: it has the largest reserves of cobalt, diamonds, platinum and uranium (Adika, 2023; Ross & Werker, 2024), and holds 65 per cent of the world’s arable land. Many of these natural resources are required for global energy and agrifood transitions. However, many African countries also fall prey to the “resource curse”: a situation that occurs when a dominant export-driven natural resource sector generating large revenues for government leads to corruption, economic stagnation, underdevelopment, and political instability.

4) Africa is a massive and highly diverse continent: it is not a country, but a continent with 54 countries, with even more intra-country diversity. This diversity can be a powerful catalyst for entrepreneurship and innovation, as well as a source of conflict, which raises questions regarding how to make use of this diversity and how to mitigate and prevent conflict.

5) African diaspora is large and has many faces. The African diaspora population is rather cosmopolitan and used to adapting to different circumstances. It may have implications for the development of entrepreneurial ecosystems in Africa, especially through remittances. Remittances make up a large part of many African countries’ national incomes, with countries such as Egypt, Nigeria, Morocco, Ghana and Kenya representing the top 5 countries that received the highest amount of remittances in 2022 (UNCTAD, 2023). This diaspora reflects different types of consequences for the host country and country of origin (Aluko et al., 2022; Bolzani, Marabello & Honig, 2020), potentially leading to a brain drain, but also to more novel aspects of brain circulation (Saxenian 2006; Sternberg et al., 2023).

6) In Africa entrepreneurship is largely informal (Musara & Nieuwenhuizen 2020), due to weak or even absent formal institutions (Sydow et al., 2022), thereby impacting the kind of entrepreneurial ecosystems that emerge and evolve in Africa.

These paradoxical characteristics of the African continent, in combination with the limited entrepreneurship research conducted there so far, reflect a huge need and a significant opportunity for research on entrepreneurial ecosystems in Africa (Ezeh et al., 2020; Henn & Robinson, 2023; Opute et al., 2021). Consequently, appropriate ecosystem measures are necessary (Liguori et al., 2019) to examine the context specific nature of African entrepreneurial ecosystems, as well as an examination of how African entrepreneurial ecosystems form and evolve over time (Thompson et al., 2017).

Scholarly interest in entrepreneurial ecosystems has emerged because of its capacity to help cities, regions and nations achieve sustainable economic development through support for business environments (Biru et al., 2021) including marginalized entrepreneurs (Martinez Dy 2020; Mika et al., 2022; Martin & Honig 2019). Extant literature acknowledges the heterogeneity of entrepreneurial ecosystems (Brown & Mason 2017; Scheidgen 2021) suggesting that configurations of entrepreneurial ecosystems are contextual (Miles and Morrison 2020; Schrijvers et al., 2024), and that entrepreneurial ecosystems scholarly work can benefit from a holistic understanding of the contextual factors that spur or hinder entrepreneurs.

Entrepreneurial ecosystem as a pathway to achieve sustainable development in Africa have recently gained attention (Lafuente et al, 2023). For instance, some scholarly work has examined Africa’s fintech entrepreneurial ecosystem and fintech start-ups (Molla & Biru 2023); and the quality of linkages between and within ecosystems (Dzimba & Van der Poll, 2022; Madzikanda et al., 2022), while others have highlighted barriers to developing healthy entrepreneurial ecosystems (Madzikanda et al., 2022) and entrepreneurship support programmes (Biru et al., 2021).

The guest editors plan to host paper development workshops in Canada, Europe and one virtual or on-site in Africa for manuscripts that have advanced through the editorial process.


Submission Instructions

The purpose of this call is to encourage scholarly contributions that engages in examining how entrepreneurial ecosystems can enhance entrepreneurship, advance environmental objectives, and improve social conditions in Africa (Dhahri & Omri, 2018).  We therefore welcome empirical (qualitative and quantitative) contributions that push the boundaries of current knowledge of entrepreneurial ecosystems in Africa.

The call seeks original scholarly work, both quantitative and qualitative, that examines research questions (but not limited to) such as the following:

  • How do entrepreneurial ecosystem conditions effect different types of entrepreneurship in Africa?
  • How do entrepreneurial ecosystems enable entrepreneurship that contributes to sustainable development outcomes in Africa?
  • To what extent and how do inter-ecosystem links contribute to entrepreneurship and sustainable development in Africa?
  • What are the entrepreneur, firm and ecosystem level effects of policy interventions?
  • What explains the long term dynamics of entrepreneurial ecosystems, in particular virtuous and vicious cycles of entrepreneurial ecosystem development?
  • To what extent do African entrepreneurial ecosystems enhance or aggravate inequality?
  • How can entrepreneurial ecosystem interventions support marginalized populations in Africa?
  • How do we appropriately measure ecosystems that impact African entrepreneurship?
  • Does entrepreneurial ecosystem ameliorate societal problems in Africa such as youth unemployment, poverty, and climate change?
  • What is the relationship between entrepreneurial ecosystem support and internal and out-migration (diaspora) in Africa?
  • What are the barriers toward entrepreneurship in Africa and how can entrepreneurial ecosystems bridge these barriers?
  • What type of institutions/ecosystems facilitate entrepreneurial informality in Africa?
  • How does entrepreneurial ecosystem support in Africa differ from support elsewhere?

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