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Learning from business support in Africa

David Irwin (Irwin Grayson Associates, Stocksfield, UK)

Management Research Review

ISSN: 2040-8269

Article publication date: 25 January 2011




The purpose of this paper is to review approaches to providing support to entrepreneurs adopted by four business support organisations, originally created with similar objectives, in Kenya, Uganda, Tanzania and Cameroon to examine entrepreneurial heterogeneity in Africa and the hypothesis that local solutions are required to support entrepreneurs effectively.


An empirical review of each business support organisation's approach, including a stakeholder analysis was undertaken.


Although the trusts were established to achieve broadly similar objectives, all have followed a different path, apparently in response to the need to provide support in different ways. All are successful, demonstrating the importance of this approach. All learn from each other, adopting and, importantly, adapting successful programmes.

Research limitations/implications

The research whilst systematically covering stakeholders was limited to gathering qualitative perceptions of the organisations and their successes. Further research, based on systematic performance measurement by the trusts, and with appropriate control groups, could provide further insights.

Practical implications

The study is relevant to policy makers, particularly in donors and multi‐lateral institutions, considering how further to encourage and support small business development. It should encourage the designers of new programmes to spend more time ensuring that they understand how the needs of local entrepreneurs can best be addressed.


The study is unique in being able to use four business support organisations, in four countries, all with a common core sponsor and similar values, to make comparisons of supporting entrepreneurs. The paper makes a contribution towards demonstrating that there is little homogeneity amongst entrepreneurs in Africa and those entrepreneurs therefore require assistance tailored to meet their particular culture.



Irwin, D. (2011), "Learning from business support in Africa", Management Research Review, Vol. 34 No. 2, pp. 207-220.



Emerald Group Publishing Limited

Copyright © 2011, Emerald Group Publishing Limited

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