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An investigation of migrant entrepreneurs: the case of Syrian refugees in Lebanon

Laurice Alexandre (Paris Descartes University, Paris, France)
Charbel Salloum (Universite Saint-Esprit de Kaslik, Jounieh, Lebanon)
Adel Alalam (Universite Saint-Esprit de Kaslik, Jounieh, Lebanon)

International Journal of Entrepreneurial Behavior & Research

ISSN: 1355-2554

Article publication date: 3 June 2019

Issue publication date: 5 August 2019




The purpose of this paper is to answer the following question: what motivates refugees to create their own businesses in a developing country, and how do they go about it?


A quantitative study was conducted before Syrian refugees in main camps in Lebanon. The self-administrated survey was translated into the Arabic language to fit the respondents understanding of the questions asked and answers choices. Closed questions with nominal ratio and Likert scales were used to gather the primary data in the line of the study of Wauters and Lambrecht. The data were analysed with a logistic regression analysis under SPSS.


The findings show that 71 per cent of Syrian refugees seem to have a willingness to start a new business in Lebanon. The respondents are mostly young, with 62 per cent being between the ages of 18 and 35. Most of them are men (66.67 per cent) against 33.33 per cent of women. 60 per cent have already been entrepreneurs, and they are mostly motivated by earning a living but in the sector they used to work in before in their home country. Finally, the obstacles seem to be linked to financial and administrative issues, but also to the local policies. However, the fact that they share some cultural values with Lebanese such as the language or food, allow them to integrate easier and to create social bonds.

Research limitations/implications

The research is limited by the fact that the authors cannot generalise the findings since the Lebanese environment is very different from other countries’ environment. Besides, the Syrian refugees share already a lot of values and lifestyle with Lebanese. So, the authors cannot transpose their case to other ethnic population. Also, the study is limited by the lack of a gender statement and the link between the education level and the decision of creating a new business.

Practical implications

The authors propose some recommendations to the Lebanese Government and NGOs in order to facilitate and support the entrepreneurship actions of refugees shortly after they arrive to Lebanon.

Social implications

This paper confirms the importance of social ties in encouraging entrepreneurship in the case of refugees.


In this paper, the authors make four contributions to the academic debate: first, the authors studied the entrepreneurial motivations of refugees in a middle-eastern developing country while the other studies have focussed upon the adaptation of such individuals in a western and developed environment. Second, the refugees are motivated by pull and push factors at once as the authors discussed in the precedent section. Third, although adaptation to the Lebanese culture is easier, resilience is nevertheless needed due to the Lebanese Government’s policies, which forbid refugees to work in the country. Fourth, with regard to migration studies in general, this paper stands half way between the various studies conducted on ethnic entrepreneurship, immigrant entrepreneurship and refugees. Indeed, the authors brought together many concepts such as social bonds, social capital, culture, political environment, and the service industry. On the managerial level, the findings allow the institutions and the government to target those refugees who show an appetence to entrepreneurship to stimulate their action, shortly after arriving in Lebanon, as their entrepreneurial intent decreases with the time they spend, often unemployed, in the host country. Should government policy change, both the integration of refugees, and entrepreneurship in general would benefit.



Alexandre, L., Salloum, C. and Alalam, A. (2019), "An investigation of migrant entrepreneurs: the case of Syrian refugees in Lebanon", International Journal of Entrepreneurial Behavior & Research, Vol. 25 No. 5, pp. 1147-1164.



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Copyright © 2019, Emerald Publishing Limited

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