Gender-inclusive Africa through Entrepreneurship and International Business

Women entrepreneurs are vital drivers of sustainable economic growth and inclusive prosperity. However, creating a gender-inclusive Africa remains a challenge faced by the overwhelming majority of governments across Africa. Even though African women have made substantial gains in education, these efforts have not yet translated into full access to entrepreneurship and international trade. For example, over 80% of SMEs owned by women remain in the informal sectors and less likely to secure resources to grow their businesses than firms owned by men. Recognising that women are essential to Africa’s economic growth, social development, and sustainability, the Centre is dedicated to ensuring women’s full participation in international business. Our current research agendas focus on the (1) factors that hamper women’s economic opportunities and full participation as entrepreneurs, producers, and business leaders; (2) gender-inclusive exporting and entrepreneurship education; (3) gender-based international trade barriers and financial constraints; and finally, policy frameworks that promote equal economic opportunities to women, the transition of women-owned African SMEs from the informal sector to formal sector as well as improve their presence both in the regional and global markets. The goal of this research agendas is geared towards helping the continent meet the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development, more precisely on the Decent Work and Economic Growth, Gender Equality and Good Health and Well-being Goals


Export, Innovation and Productivity

Firms with international activities have higher productivity in comparison to firms that serve only the domestic markets. Due to fixed costs linked to entry into export markets, international trade research suggests that only firms with high productivity self-select into exporting. However, increasing evidence shows that innovation enables firms to internationalise faster and grow better than their non-innovative counterparts in international markets. Innovation is a key driver of competition and dynamic market efficiency. In today’s changing global business environment, firms investing in innovation have stronger sources of competitive advantages and achieve superior performance. This is well supported by the endogenous growth theory, which points to the role of knowledge and innovation on productivity growth. With this research focus, the Centre aims to analyse the relationships between innovation, export and productivity in Africa. First, we examine the barriers to innovations among African SMEs.  Second, we consider the innovation types as well as combinatory innovation strategies that help these firms expand, survive and become more productive in the export markets. Third, as export markets offer learning opportunities, we explore how African SMEs can utilize technology spillover and knowledge network in enhancing their innovation capabilities and consequently, productivity. Finally, we provide policy frameworks to decision-makers and governments on how to enable innovation ecosystems, design financial options and management capabilities that help SMEs productivity.

Internationalization, digitalization, and sustainability: The African SME Experience

The digital revolution is increasingly calling small and medium-sized enterprises (SMEs) to pursue international expansion as well as to adhere to environmental sustainability goals. As value chains become more and more digitalized, the readiness to implement digital strategies, structures and processes will be key for African SMEs to join the global markets as suppliers, and target global customers with personalized offers. While internationalization is a powerful growth strategy, it raises potential environmental concerns linked to pollution or the excessive usage of the planet’s resources.  As the quest for implementing sustainability practices increases in form of new regulations and strong stakeholders’ pressures in many countries, the successful entry market and operations of African SMEs in the global markets largely depends on pursuing proactive sustainability practices. Given its importance, the Centre focuses on the linkage between internationalization, digitalization, and sustainability in Africa. More precisely, first, we examine digital infrastructure and resources relevant to the successful internationalization of African SMEs in the global markets. Second, we explore corporate social responsibility and environmental issues raised by digital technologies adopted by these firms. Finally, we provide managerial recommendations on how internationalization, digitalization, and sustainability can serve as powerful complementary growth options for African SMEs. The goal of this research project to help the continent meet the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development on the promotion of both economic growth, sustainable practices and efficient use of natural resources.

International Trade Agreements, Policies and Competition: Africa and the World

The recent African Continental Free Trade Area (AfCFTA) agreement created a New African Market (NAM) that is expected to enhance intra-African trade, encourage industrialization, create job opportunities, and boost the presence as well as the competitiveness of African firms, in particular the SMEs, on the global markets. As the fast-growing and youngest population in the world, the NAM has the potential of lifting up to 30 million African out of extreme poverty. Besides, it can boost Africa’s income by $450 billion by 2035 as well as adding $76 billion to the income of the rest of the world, according to the World Bank Report. As the large free trade in the world, the NAM presents major trade and growth opportunities for SMEs in Africa. As the AfCFTA agreement is still in a nascent stage, first, the Centre explores the policies, regulations, and trade facilitation instruments that will enable African SMEs to navigate, compete and utilize the potential of the agreement. Second, with the coming into force of AfCFTA, we investigate how SMEs with export orientation can identify and utilize the benefits of trade agreements across the countries of the world. The research’s objectives are to help policymakers and SMEs managers mitigate risks and maximize the potential gains of intra-African and inter-African trade agreements