Long considered as the hopeless continent, Africa is now on the rise. In the recent decades, most sub-Saharan African countries have seen economic growth rates surpassing those of Western Europe, the United States and even some Asian countries. Sub-Saharan Africa (SSA) is now the second fastest growing region of the world after Asia. Two publications (McKinsey Global Institute, 2010 and The Economist, 2011) highlighted the positive prospects of African economies. The Academy of Management also illustrated its interest for Africa by organising its first international conference in Johannesburg, South Africa in January 2013. This renewed interest in Africa calls for action from management scholars.
One potential area for management scholars to generate knowledge on business creation is the informal economy of sub-Saharan Africa. The informal economy represents more than 70% of economic activity in most sub-Saharan African countries. As the theme of the Academy of Management 2012 Annual Meeting in Boston illustrated, the informal economy is an important source for knowledge creation for management scholars. In a Professional Development Workshop (PDW) on Entrepreneurship and the Informal Economy organised at the 2012 Annual Meeting of the Academy of Management in Boston, we explored the extent to which management scholars could generate knowledge pertaining to the informal economy in SSA. Though worthwhile for the attendees, we nonetheless wish to explore the extent to which management scholarship could integrate knowledge from African cultures’ economic and social factors to develop new theories and studies that could advance knowledge and improve management practice.
To facilitate the contributions of potential authors, we have organised this call for papers around four major themes described below, along with the questions that need to be addressed. We are looking for both theory development and empirical papers for this special issue.
Bruton, G. D., Ireland, D., R., & Ketchen, Jr., D. J. (2012). Toward a research agenda on the informal economy. Academy of Management Perspectives, 26, 1-11.
Chironga, M., Leke, A., Lund, S., & Van Wamelen, A. (2011). Cracking the next growth market: Africa. Harvard Business Review, May, 117-122.
Godfrey, C. P. (2011). Toward a theory of the informal economy. The Academy of Management Annals, 5(1), 231-277.
Khavul, S., Bruton, G. D., & Wood, E. (2009). Informal family business in Africa.
Entrepreneurship Theory & Practice, 33(6), 1219-1238.
LaPorta, R., & Schleifer, A. (2008). The unofficial economy and economic development. Working Paper Series (pp. 1–75). Washington, DC: National Bureau of Economic Research.
McGahan, A. M. (2012). Challenges of the informal economy for the field of management.
Academy of Management Perspectives, 26, 12-21.
McKinsey Global Institute (2010). Lions on the move: The progress and potential of African economies. Washington, DC.
McKinsey Global Institute (2012). Africa at work: Job creation and inclusive growth. Washington, DC.
The Economist (2011). Africa rising. December 3, 2011.
Webb, W. J., Tihanyi, L., Ireland, R. D., & Sirmon, D. G. (2009). You say illegal, I say legitimate: Entrepreneurship in the Informal economy. Academy of Management Review, 34(3), 492-510.
Suitable topics include but are not limited to:
- Nature of the informal economy in sub-Saharan Africa:How can we define entrepreneurship in the informal economy in sub-Saharan Africa? How does this informal economy work and where is it after all? Is the informal economy in rural or urban areas? What are the perceptions of entrepreneurship and entrepreneurs in sub-Saharan Africa? What are the dimensions of the informal economy? To what extent can the construct of portfolio informal entrepreneurship, in which individuals engaged in several informal activities to complement their regular monthly or annual income, be considered as a particular form of informal entrepreneurship? How does the informal economy function in different regions of sub-Saharan Africa? What are the effects of past colonisation history on the informal economy? What is the contribution of the informal economy to the larger economy? How do people build assets in the informal economy?
- Interface between informal economy and formal economy in sub-Saharan Africa:At what point does an informal economy 'firm' decide to formalise? How is it possible to promote the formalisation of informal firms? How can we explore the links between government institutions and the informal economy? Should governments try to formalise the informal economy? Should governments encourage the informal economy to the extent that it benefits society? How can local institutions of education engage the informal sector? What are the institutional underpinnings of the informal economy? What is the degree of permeability between the informal economy and the formal economy?
- Informal economy and the individual informal entrepreneur in sub-Saharan Africa:What is the nature of the informal authority of women in the informal economy in sub-Saharan Africa? For example, we know that women play an important role in the informal economy, e.g. they are involved in local cooperatives in the agricultural sector. What is the role of culture in the informal economy? What soft as well as technical skills are needed in the informal economy? What is the role of innovation in the informal economy and what innovative skills are necessary for success in the informal economy? Can we develop normative models for the informal economy? Do informal economy entrepreneurs understand the concepts of productive capacity and competitive advantage? How does the Chinese presence influence the informal economy in sub-Saharan Africa? What type of training is needed for entrepreneurs in the informal economy? How does the informal economy deal with formal institutions? What is the role of regional or tribal chiefs in the informal economy? How are local lending practices used in the informal economy? Does participation in the informal economy shape the personal identity of individual informal entrepreneurs?
- The informal economy's contribution to knowledge in entrepreneurship:We are seeking papers that could demonstrate how knowledge of the informal sector in sub-Saharan Africa contributes to theory development and practice in the field of entrepreneurship. We are particularly interested in papers that address the following questions: what business models are developed and implemented in the informal economy? What can we learn from the informal economy? What about the sub-Saharan African context has theoretical implications for understanding informal entrepreneurship? How can the African context influence our understanding of extant theories of entrepreneurship and management? For example, how does the informal economy inform organisation theories such as transaction cost theory, institutional theory and institutional entrepreneurship theory, to name but a few?
Submission deadline: 15 February, 2014