Research papers and case studies

GIBS was founded with the aim of empowering businesses across the continent. As such, a large portion of the institution’s research focuses on unearthing key business insights for the region’s entrepreneurs. Here are seven pieces of research, in the form of five academic articles and two case studies, that look specifically at challenges faced by African businesses and the practical applications that can be applied to those businesses.
Research papers

Research papers

Theme: Addressing misconduct and corruption in organisations

Emerging market entrepreneurs’ narratives on managing business ethical misconduct

Emeldah Lingwati & Anastacia Mamabolo

Acta Commerci, Vol 23, no 1

GIBS associate professor Anastacia Mamabolo explains that this research has implications for entrepreneurial businesses, training institutions, and government support organisations. She says, “Of interest in our study was the South African entrepreneurs’ narratives of the types and management of ethical misconduct when engaging in entrepreneurial activities.” In this research, ethical misconduct includes corrupt activities, tax avoidance, report misconstructions, illicit payments and favours, and unreliable guidelines and regulations.

Key findings

  • It was evident from the data that entrepreneurs have limited organisational policies when they start businesses.
  • The findings showed that entrepreneurs realised the need to develop policies that guide employees’ conduct when engaging with internal and external stakeholders.
  • These policies also determine the appropriate disciplinary measures for misconduct.
  • In some cases, entrepreneurial businesses have introduced technical detection tools, for example, software, online data collection methods and biometric monitors.
  • Overall, the entrepreneurs emphasised the need to support employees and raise awareness of ethical misconduct.

 Mamabolo shares actions entrepreneurs and the government need to take:

  1. Entrepreneurs should be intentional about the values they enforce in their businesses as these are critical elements to (pre-)managing ethical misconduct.
  2. Entrepreneurs can find other creative mechanisms to ensure compliance is not burdensome.
  3. Training institutions should continue to provide business ethics training and support entrepreneurs to develop ethical (mis)conduct management tools.
  4. Government should strive to provide a conducive business environment to support entrepreneurs and deal with institutional inadequacies.

Theme: Crowdfunding, especially for immigrant ventures

Expanding understanding of family social capital in crowdfunding of migrant entrepreneurial ventures

Nadia Arshad & Adele Berndt

Journal of Enterprising Communities: People and Places in the Global Economy, Vol 17, no 1, pp. 182-207

Adele Berndt, a research assistant at GIBS, explains why this research is important for entrepreneurs. She says, “Crowdfunding is increasingly being used to obtain financing for innovative ventures, attracting financial contributions through platforms such as Kickstarter.” She explains that crowdfunding can be particularly useful for immigrants to a country as they may not be able to access traditional financing alternatives such as bank loans. In addition, crowdfunding can attract contributions from a global audience, thus, its potential to finance immigrant ventures cannot be underestimated.

Key findings:

  • As crowfunding is not subject to geographic boundaries, it allows the immigrant’s family and friends in their country of origin and their new country to contribute to the campaign. This is known as their social capital, which can contribute to the success of the campaign.
  • Social media facilitates the sharing of information about the crowdfunding campaign which is important to raising capital while also providing access to a range of social networks.
  • Family members and friends, as members of the social network, provide financial and physical resources such as vehicles, computers, access to physical space and skills such as video-making skills.
  • Relationship support from the social network can also create trust in the entrepreneur and their venture.

“Crowdfunding can be developed to support immigrant entrepreneurs to fund their ventures,” says Berndt. She adds, “It can also reflect the entrepreneur’s creativity in accessing diverse resources. Different social networks can contribute different resources to the venture, and as the entrepreneur needs them, strategies to develop these resources are important.”

Theme: Importance of keeping the value-creation focus within social enterprises

Value co-creation as a mediator between strategic planning and social enterprise performance

Motshedisi Mathibe, Willie Chinyamurindi & Progress Hove-Sibanda

Social Enterprise Journal, Vol 19, no 1, pp. 23-39 

Motshedisi Mathibe, senior lecturer at GIBS, says, “South Africa is burdened by a number of social problems. These problems include issues related to the high unemployment rate, inequality and stagnated, even negative, growth.” She explains that these identified challenges ultimately stall the competitiveness of South Africa on the international arena. “Various social actors are encouraged to come on board with workable solutions to social challenges. One such actor is the social enterprise,” she says.

Key findings

  • Value co-creation plays a role to enhance the operational and strategic direction of social enterprises.
  • The social enterprise needs to keep a focus on its main business, which is the social aspect mandate of value co-creation.
  • The continued quest for the social aspect necessitates continued involvement and relevance of the social enterprise to the community.

When it comes to the practical application, Mathibe says, “[The research focuses on] non-financial resources, including investing in the training of the people running the social enterprise. Such non-financial investment strengthens the social enterprise through internal development of the three capabilities found in our research: emphasis on strategic planning, the building of strong networks, and continued quest to create value together by all stakeholders.” Mathibe adds that the enterprise also needs clear channels for sharing essential information with stakeholders, including communities. She says, “Formal networking structures should be established to enable the social enterprise to build, maintain and renew strong relationships with stakeholders.”

Theme: Growing both young and old family businesses

Growth implications of creation and discovery behaviour among family firms: The moderating role of venture age

Francis Donbesuur, Magnus Hultman, Nathaniel Boso & Pejvak Oghazi

International Journal of Entrepreneurial Behavior & Research, Vol 29, no 1, pp. 245-267.

GIBS Professor Nathaniel Boso explains that the study examines the question of “how” and “when” creation and discovery approaches to the exploitation of new business opportunities contributes to growth of both younger and older family businesses. He says, “This is an important research question in the sense that it sheds light on two major challenges that family business entrepreneurs face. The first being how both creation and discovery approaches to opportunity exploitation can be leveraged to enhance venture growth; and secondly the extent to which family business venture age explains the conditions under which entrepreneurs’ ability to create and discover new business opportunity contributes to venture growth.” By examining these questions the study highlights, depending on the age of the business, the extent to which opportunity creation and discovery abilities complement each other to drive the growth of family businesses. The study looked at 156 family-owned SMEs in Ghana.

Key findings

  • The study found that the ability to create and discover new business opportunities are complementary capabilities that drive growth of family businesses.
  • However, the ability to create new business opportunities is a stronger driver of growth when family businesses are older than when they are younger.

When it comes to applying this to practice, Boso says, “For family business owner-managers, the results highlight the importance of pursuing both creation and discovery business opportunities as both approaches to exploiting business opportunities are significant drivers of family business growth. Relatedly, managers of older family businesses – compared to younger ones – can invest more in exploiting creative opportunities.”

Theme: How entrepreneurs can engage to develop new business ideas

New venture idea incubation: A micro process view

Nyasha Mugadza & Kerrin Myres

The Southern African Journal of Entrepreneurship and Small Business Management, Vol 15, no 1

Academic and private-sector consultant Nyasha Mugadza says about the research, “Entrepreneurship is hailed for its critical contributions to national economic progress. The history of industrial and socio-economic development of countries such as the United States demonstrates a credible track record of long-term financial and societal advancement founded on the successful exploitation of entrepreneurial activity.” She then adds, “No discipline advances in a silo.” The research contributes to the creative cross-pollination of ideas and constructs, creates the opportunity to challenge existing perspectives, and looks at how to expand operational competency which is underpinned by strategic prudence.

Key findings:

  • This research employs thought processes from multiple fields to advance views on how entrepreneurs engage with new venture ideas by embracing the lens of strategy process, creative design thinking and entrepreneurial cognition.
  • The study was able to give a granular description of actions and choices advanced by entrepreneurial actors.
  • When a strategy process mindset is applied to observed behaviours of the actors, a series of processes emerge.

When talking about the importance of this research, Mugadza quotes Entrepreneurship: Taking your Business from Home-grown to World-class, by Professor Kerrin Myers in Acumen 39, which captures a key lesson shared by two award-winning African entrepreneurs, Ike Chalumbira and Jr Bogopa: “Focus – ‘spray and pray’ is not a viable strategy. Know where your business is going, develop a plan and then target the right customer." She says, “The framework of key phases of activity that emerged from our exploration into new venture idea shaping aligns with this critical insight. It gives entrepreneurs an outline of a practical idea-framing process – a tool for new venture conceptualisation” The research data describes the underlying character of each stage, making it accessible for practical implementation.

Case studies

Theme: Positioning a social enterprise within the larger economic ecosystem

Projet Jeune Leader: Scaling Challenges of social entrepreneurship in Madagascar

Amy Moore & Tracey Toefy

Ivey Publishing

Amy Moore, a professional associate at GIBS, says about the case study, “Our case on Projet Jeune Leader (PJL) highlights the fact that social enterprises create social value and therefore play an important role within the larger ecosystem of for-profit organisations, government and civil society organisations.” PJL (which delivers sexuality education in Madagascar) demonstrates how strategic thinking about organisational resources can favourably position a social enterprise within the larger ecosystem so that it can attract the necessary funding and institutional support.

Key findings

  • Social enterprises with their social mission-driven approach must acquire resources and develop capabilities to make the most of the resources.
  • In order to scale the impact to meet the degree of social need, social enterprises can decide either to focus on current services or products and how to deliver these more efficiently (breadth impact) or to increase impact through diversification by drawing on capabilities of learning and connectedness (depth impact).
  • Depth scaling strategies usually consider how to increase the range of products or services offered by drawing on personal, political or other relationships.
  • Both scaling strategies require optimal leveraging of firm resources.
  • One of the key resources for optimising the deployment of resources is the organisational culture.

There are a variety of ways that businesses can apply this research to their operations. Moore suggests three points:

  1. Firstly, analysing their ability to scale by considering the resources and capabilities that they have at their disposal. These may be a source of competitive advantage for the business.
  2. Do not underestimate the importance of the different dimensions required for scaling. These range from people, leadership style, organisational stakeholders, and communication systems. Technology and data are also important tools to enable scaling solutions.
  3. The UN’s Social Development Goals do matter, and having conversations about your organisation’s role in driving that can be an enabler of purpose and meaning.

Theme: Funding for ‘missing-middle’ businesses

Fundrr, growth through entrepreneurial resourcefulness and hustling 

Jefferson Chen, Cara Bouwer & Given Ramadzanga

Ivey Publishing

With the advent of micro-financing in the early 2000s, alternative funders have focused so much of their attention on small businesses and individuals that they have neglected the so-called "missing middle" – businesses that big banks aren’t that interested in but which don’t qualify for government help. The story of Fundrr is, therefore, linked to the bigger push to advance small- and medium-sized entrepreneurship in South Africa. GIBS faculty member Jefferson (Jeff) Chen said, “We felt this was a story that needed to be shared with business school students eager to look up from their books and see how real-world entrepreneurs adapt and pivot.”

Key takeaways

  • How Fundrr responded to the Covid-19 pandemic and its profound impact on smaller businesses.
  • The openness of the founders to collaborate within the sector.
  • How it has leveraged partnerships and adapted its business in sync with the changing demographics of South Africa’s SME sector is also interesting.
  • The way Fundrr responded to challenges and opportunities defined its approach to business resilience.

Chen explains how the Fundrr case study can be applied: “One of the lessons which Fundrr teaches us is that business is not static and business models no longer sit on your shelf for five to 10 years, only to be dusted off then and rolled out for an update or a tweak. As a start-up, Fundrr has the luxury of being agile, which its founders have certainly capitalised on. Their use of data is also impressive and very much in keeping with the way businesses of the future will have to adapt.” He concludes by saying, “As entrepreneurs, always find ways to partner with others so that you can generate the maximum mutually gratifying outcome.”


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