CSR and SMEs in Africa
Date: 8 January 2014
Venue: University of Botswana, Gaborone/Botswana
Our first ESRC seminar took place in Gaborone (the capital of Botswana) as part of the African Academy of Management Conference (AFAM) bi-annual conference. The theme of the 2014 AFAM conference was fittingly called ‘Sustainable Development in Africa through management Theory, Research and Practice’ and it attracted various CSR scholars from Africa, Europe, North America and elsewhere. The AFAM president, Prof. Stella Nkomo, has inspired the participants towards a vision for a new dawn for Africa, of which socially responsible behaviour of organizations forms a part.
Before the conference, we held a very successful one-day doctoral training workshop on researching CSR. The training workshop was attended by about 25 participants. Six PhD students from business schools in Nigeria, Kenya, South Africa and Ghana were awarded ESRC travel bursaries to support their workshop and conference participation. The keen interest of young researchers in our training workshop underlined that there is ample need to support young African CSR researchers in developing their academic careers, including their publication records in international academic journals.
On the first day of the AFAM conference, we held our first official ESRC seminar – which primarily consisted of two discussion panels on CSR among African SMEs. We had about 40 participants and we quickly ran out of seats in the classroom, which shows keen interest in this topic. By the end of the seminar, we learned that different aspects of social responsibility (albeit often called differently in different African contexts) are more vibrant among African SMEs than we perhaps expected. There are, of course, huge social needs in parts of Africa and it is necessary to substantially improve institutional frameworks for SME-CSR in Africa, while adherence to socially responsible behaviour is hugely uneven even within the same industry and within the same country (for example, the wine industry in South Africa presented by Prof. Ralph Hamann). But there is a keen understanding and acceptance that firms should support local communities, something that Africa can fruitfully build on.
For Laura Spence’s take on the event, see http://craneandmatten.blogspot.co.uk/2014/01/csr-in-africa-be-part-of-it.html