Social innovation and entrepreneurship in Africa

Stream #11

Chairs: David Littlewood (University of Sheffield), Diane Holt (University of Leeds), Bitange Ndemo (University of Nairobi)

Africa is at a crossroads. On one hand, it faces numerous intractable sustainable development challenges, including widespread and persistent poverty, increased competition for resources accompanying major population growth, the intensifying effects of global climate change, and the social and economic implications of the COVID-19 pandemic. On the other hand, many African economies are growing rapidly, whilst over the last decade significant progress has been made in governance and human development on the continent. In recent times many African cities have also become centres of (social) innovation and entrepreneurship. Indeed, a transformation is occurring, with external perceptions of Africa changing to see the continent as an ‘opportunity’ rather than a ‘threat’, whilst Africans are also shaping their own destinies and developing local solutions to the sustainable development challenges they face. This stream aligns with this transformation. It aims to provide significant novel empirical and theoretical insights on social innovation and entrepreneurship in Africa. 

Social innovation and entrepreneurship in Africa has been the subject of growing academic attention. Nevertheless, research has struggled to keep up with rapid developments on the ground and in practice. Scholarship on social innovation and entrepreneurship in Africa also remains fragmented, with many research questions unanswered. For this reason, we have convened this conference stream. 

We therefore invite contributions to the stream on the following (non-exhaustive) topics:

  • The nature of social innovation and entrepreneurship in Africa, similarities and differences across and within Africa, and compared to other contexts.
  • The characteristics of African social innovators and entrepreneurs, what motivates them, what constrains them, their identities, and how they can be better supported.
  • Organising for social innovation and entrepreneurship in Africa, including but not limited to social enterprises, this would encompass topics of strategy, marketing, operations management, internationalisation, leadership etc.
  • Theorising social innovation and entrepreneurship in Africa, applying new theoretical perspectives to understand these phenomena, as well as building new theories to explain them.
  • Critical and alternative perspectives on social innovation and entrepreneurship in Africa.
  • Social innovation and entrepreneurship in Africa and government, institutions and policy, how an enabling environment can be created for such innovation and entrepreneurship. Political perspectives on social innovation and entrepreneurship. 
  • Social innovation and entrepreneurship ecosystems in Africa, including the role of universities, hubs, international organisations and wider actors.
  • Social innovation and entrepreneurship in Africa and the COVID-19 pandemic, challenges and responses.