Originally published here
What does Africapitalism mean? What can it mean? How can it inform business decisions and government policies? Should business leaders and policymakers in African countries be involved in Africapitalism? Can they tell us their stories? Will they tell us their stories? What will their stories be?
This was the main aim of the Africapitalism workshop, held in Edinburgh on the 8th-9th September, 2014. The research project is focused on Africapitalism, the philosophy of Africapitalism, African business leaders, and how African business leaders can engage in Africapitalism to further Africa’s development. We engaged in an interactive and successful 2-day workshop, where the themes of the project were outlined, and the draft chapters prepared for a book on Africapitalism that is to be published at the end of the project.
The project collaborators from Pan-Atlantic University (Nigeria); Strathmore University (Kenya); University of Loughborough (UK); University of Nottingham (UK); University of Durham (UK); University of Cape Town (South Africa); York University (Canada); University of Edinburgh (UK); and University of Grand-Bassam (Ivory Coast) presented their results from the first phase of the research project, a critical review of the extant literature on the role of business in the society, the role of leaders and the theories that govern business decisions. David Rice, from the Africapitalism institute was also in attendance and he presented the Africapitalism Institute’s Principles of Africapitalism and their work towards the development of the Africapitalism Index.
Preliminary findings from the pilot studies were also shared, some of which include that African business leaders believe there is a need for change but do not feel that they are able, as individual organizations to make the change required. It appears that they would be willing to collaborate, if someone took the initiative to champion a cause for the benefit of society. There also appears to be some disparity between what people understand the role of the business to be, which they say is primarily for profit, and any work on solving public problems was seen as an additional cost, or additional role of the organization. Another finding from the pilot studies was the fact that businesses do not view themselves as the solvers of public problems but would be willing to do so, if incentives such as tax rebates were provided by the government, towards the solution of public problems. There is also a recognition that playing this role would require a new but different form of leadership in Africa, which a respondent succinctly articulated as: “leadership on another level”.
During the workshop, the Africapitalism project team brainstormed to refine our research design, and it was agreed that data will be collected from business leaders of medium to large organizations in the four case countries: Ivory Coast, Kenya, Nigeria, and South Africa. Data will also be collected data from senior-level policy makers in the four countries. The aim of this is to understand if business leaders enacted practices that contribute to both economic and social wealth, that is, are they ‘Afri-conscious’, if so, how they are Afri-conscious? We also aim to understand what business leaders understand their role in society to be, and the extent to which they are able to create both economic and social wealth. In the same vein, the project also aims to understand the views of policy makers about the role of business in society. In this way, it is expected that the data will yield interesting and complex insights into the inner minds and values of decision-makers in Africa; as a starting point to understand Africapitalism, and to develop the academic foundations of the Africapitalism philosophy.
The next phase of the project, collection of primary data, has begun and this is aimed to be completed by early January 2015, following which comparative analyses of the data between countries, within countries, and between stakeholders (policymakers vs business leaders) will be carried out. The results from the project will be disseminated through journal articles, case studies, conferences and an Africapitalism workshop.
We also participated in an Escape team game, where we got to test our problem-solving skills in a different setting, and we discovered that we were able to make more progress, and ‘escape’ when we worked together to solve the clues provided. The game was followed by a tour of Edinburgh, where interesting insights were shared about the design of the city, with new, modern buildings inhabiting the same space as older buildings, an observation that we understood to signal progress and modernization, but one that was respectful of the old. In this way, it showed how new and old were both important to society, and we shared how these lessons may be applied to Africa, in terms of how we build our societies, our structures, our institutions, moving forward, but understanding who we are and what we are about, that is, being Afri-conscious.