Ebes Esho, Grietjie Verhoef

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


An impressive economic growth between 2000 and 2015 and increased business activities in Africa attracted global investors and research attention. Multinational companies, a product of industrial revolutions, are emerging from several African countries. However, just as African multinationals are emerging, a fourth industrial revolution (4IR) seems to be evolving, despite ongoing debates about the exact revolutionary nature of new digital technologies. Similar to previous industrial revolutions, Africa seems to be trailing the world in this new era of digitalization. This conceptual paper presents a discursive analysis of how African businesses, wishing to internationalize, and home-grown African Multinational Enterprises (MNEs), should respond to 4IR and its related technologies. Some of the inherent opportunities and emerging challenges for African business presented by the 4IR era and its associated technologies are presented. The article begins by clarifying the concept of 4IR and its misconception with industry 4.0 and similar terms. The paper then proceeds to a discussion of the summary characteristics of industrial revolutions, its relationships with the emergence of MNEs, and how theories of international businesses have generally evolved with different industrial revolutions. The authors conclude with a research agenda for African businesses and MNEs in an age of fast paced digitalization.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)14-30
Number of pages17
JournalJournal of Global Business and Technology
Issue number2
Publication statusPublished - 2023


  • 4IR
  • African Business
  • Digitalization
  • emerging markets
  • Fourth Industrial Revolution
  • Industrial Revolution
  • Industry 4.0
  • International Business

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Business and International Management
  • Strategy and Management
  • Marketing
  • Management of Technology and Innovation


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