Are African micro- and small enterprises misunderstood? Unpacking the relationship between work organisation, capability development and innovation

Erika Kraemer-Mbula, Edward Lorenz, Lotta Takala-Greenish, Oluseye Oladayo Jegede, Tukur Garba, Musambya Mutambala, Timothy Esemu

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

29 Citations (Scopus)

Abstract

Mainstream studies on innovation consider innovation processes as necessarily driven by expenditures on formal R&D and the input of engineers and scientists with third-level degrees. This bias in the literature has led to the view that micro- and small enterprises (MSEs), which constitute the majority of Africa's enterprise base, are non-innovative. Building on an existing critique largely emerging from developing countries, this study provides evidence that, despite their lack of formal R&D expenditures, MSEs in Nigeria, South Africa, Tanzania and Uganda are in fact active innovators. The paper argues that the mainstream literature fails to capture important dynamics and practices that are central to innovation in MSEs. Arguing that the way work activity is organised is closely linked to learning, capability development and, ultimately, innovation, the paper unpacks the relationships between these three processes with evidence from MSEs in the four African countries. The empirical findings demonstrate that an important basis for the innovativeness of African MSEs is the adaptability of employees and their ability to learn on the job and to make use of their own ideas in solving the problems they face in work.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)1-30
Number of pages30
JournalInternational Journal of Technological Learning, Innovation and Development
Volume11
Issue number1
DOIs
Publication statusPublished - 2019

Keywords

  • Africa
  • Capability building
  • Informal economy
  • Innovation
  • Learning
  • MSEs
  • Micro- and small enterprises
  • Work organisation

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Education
  • Computer Science Applications
  • Management of Technology and Innovation

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