Responsible Management in Africa, Volume 2: Ethical Work and Sustainability

Cover of Responsible Management in Africa, Volume 2: Ethical Work and Sustainability


Table of contents

(13 chapters)

Ecology is a word commonly used in many circles with a focus on the environment and human interactions with it. Human ecology as a concept studies human interaction with the environment in different cultures. Human cultural backgrounds differ and the way the traditional beliefs influence human activities varies from place to place. In entrepreneurship, traditional values can play a role as they often shape the character of practitioners. In the quest for sustainable development, one cannot underestimate the influence of these cultural tenets in shaping the dynamics of the practitioners’ activities. This chapter explores the role of African cultural beliefs, philosophies in cultivating principled entrepreneurship. It presents some traditional values that influenced the mindset of entrepreneurs in the past towards ethical work. These tenets guided the dynamics of trade and responsible management of resources for the benefit of one’s community and of oneself.


The fight against corruption is a necessary precondition for the civil and economic development of a country.

Corruption is a kind of social injustice based on a moral vice, as Thomas Aquinas explained in his Summa Theologiae.

There have been many social injustices throughout history, and this specific form that is corruption has emerged prevalent especially in the last 100 years with the growth of the state apparatus and its pervasiveness in most areas of society’s life (Thomas & Meyer, 1984).

Fighting corruption requires adequate laws and public strategies, but a public ‘system’ is not enough: individuals must also be educated in morality.

This appreciation of morality was the ideal of the political prophet Giuseppe Mazzini, who had disciples all over the world, including the Pan-African leaders Lembede and Nkrumah. This ‘spiritualist’ philosophy does not devalue the economy, but it does not put it first, because it believes that without a deep-rooted morality in individuals nothing can flourish, not even the economy and its management. In this critique to economism, Mazzini differed from both Marxism and capitalist liberalism.

The deepest level of moral education is not built in the universities, but in the family, parents are the first educators of honest citizens. In this ideal Mazzini’s teaching can be met with a suggestion from the Ubuntu philosophy.


This chapter examines common managerial practices inspired by local values and ethics within Algerian companies, with a focus on managerial discretion surrounding corporate social responsibility (CSR) initiatives. The complexity of human, economic and institutional development realities within the Algerian context makes it a uniquely intriguing subject, yet little attention has been attributed to studying the manifestation of local values through CSR practices in this environment. The chapter presents a qualitative case study of six companies operating in Algeria, and coins CSR discretion as a local concept that reflects undertaking CSR actions while purposely not communicating over it. The influence of local values and ethics are most visible through (a) CSR initiatives powered by personal responsibility, (b) CSR discretion to preserve the value of one’s actions, referred to as the ‘neya’, and (c) the common forces that shape individual values which then manifest through management practices.


This chapter seeks to examine the concept of corporate social responsibility (CSR) in Kenya and evaluate whether the practices of CSR evidenced in Kenya resonates with the needs and aspirations of the people or has been caricatured from the West. The chapter epistemologically examines CSR and tilts this approach to Kenya and how Kenyan indigenous organisations are practising it. There is no denying that the West has been significant in shaping the frameworks of the contemporary CSR agenda thus making its definition not African. It is important to realise that there is no homogeneity in terms of the needs and realities between developed and developing countries. In this regard, any attempts to homogenise the conceptualisation of CSR cannot hold water due to disparities in the cultural underpinnings. A common understanding in the scholarship on CSR is that it is culturally determined. Most multinational organisations operating in Africa have always practised the kind of CSR that mostly resonates with the West rather than Africa. The organisation’s mandate is not only to make profits but also to increase and strike a balance of the needs and interests of the stakeholders. Through desktop research, published scholarly articles were analysed and it was established that there is no African CSR. The one practised in Kenya and the other parts of the African continent is a caricature of the Global North which does not conform to the needs, realities, and expectations of Africans.


Since independence in 1968, the Mauritian economy has moved from a monocrop economy to a more diversified middle-income economy. In addition, women’s emancipation in the 1983–2001 period has contributed to an upliftment to the business panorama. Attitudes and behaviours of people engaged in business transactions were mainly regulated by traditions, culture and values stemming from their inherent religious beliefs. In Mauritius, the four predominant religions are Hinduism, Christianity, Islam and Buddhism. Each one upholds traditional rituals and festivals which serve to maintain certain business decorum in the country and establish strong corporation and business trades. Nowadays, there are business dealings which are increasingly being scrutinised by the public and independent bodies for transparency and accountability, a situation not obtrusive in the past.

This study adopts a phenomenological approach to gain insights into the evolution of tradition, values and culture during the past 50 years. A survey questionnaire was administered to seven (n = 7) purposive participants and one of them was selected for a structured interview for triangulation purposes. The findings suggest a clear decline in the contribution of religion, tradition and culture in modern-day business dealings, especially in the advent of technology and a gradual increase of corrupt practices triggered principally by sociocultural groups mushroomed around religions. The nexus between these groups and the governing bodies further fuels unethical and obscure practices. It is believed that a digitalisation of the business ecosystem would provide some relief and restore business ethics.


This study examined business sustainability from a sustainability standpoint with a focus on corporate social responsibility (CSR) and operational perspective by attempting to uncover, for the latter, whether Namibian local businesses would outlive their owners given the customary system in place for managing such businesses. Desktop research showed that Namibian businesses were engaged with issues of promoting indigenous culture, ethical conduct and were socially responsible. However, beneficiaries of the CSR initiatives of one of the corporate players were not impressed with their interventions. Key informants’ interviews with businesspersons revealed that the customary practices were still in place and were combined with modern business operating systems. But the results were mixed with successes and failures recorded for business managed by customary means and those combining both approaches, hence the recommendation for wholesale adoption of modern business management approaches that would result in the best person taking over the reins as opposed to family members.


In this chapter, the term responsible management is explained with regard to how it relates to the Igbo apprenticeship system (IAS). Responsible management is ‘the assumption of a person’s responsibility for sustainability, stakeholder value and ethics’ (Laasch & Conaway, 2015, p. 25).

The introduction describes the origin of the Igbo tribe, their exposure to entrepreneurship and the birth of the IAS. It also describes the IAS as a business philosophy targeted towards economic equilibrium. The IAS’s three stages, namely talent identification, learning stage and settlement stage is then discussed followed by the two forms of the IAS: the ‘Igba boi’ (to assist with any task) and ‘Imu oru aka’ (to learn a skill) also known as ‘Imu ahia’ (to learn a trade).

The chapter further presents how IAS promotes sustainability, which involves the protection, creation and maintenance of social, environmental and economic business values. In addition, the various ways via which the IAS encourages the need for decisions in management to be morally desirable in both process and outcome for the benefit of all parties involved will be discussed. This chapter explores how IAS does not only practice responsible management but promotes the idea of responsible management in Nigeria and across the continent. It dissects the contributions of the IAS to the Igbo community, short-comings of the system and how it can be applied to effect positive change in other sectors.

While the IAS has been around for decades, research shows that very little work has been done to document it and written reports on it are sparse. Thus, for this chapter the author chose to interview real people who are products of the IAS. Findings demonstrate that the system has remained the same over the years. However, there are less people using the system today due to some negative social reasons. The people interviewed are quoted in this chapter where relevant but their real identities will not be used here thus, they will be referred to as Mr Ben and Mr James. It is also noteworthy that the author is an Igbo woman who has first-hand information on the Biafra war and how the Igbo people worked hard to recover from its effects.


The chapter evaluates trust-based and emotional intelligence (EI) approaches in Tanzania’s informal sector entrepreneurs, from mali kwa mali (barter trade), mali kauli (trust-based credit) to collective or technology-based upatu (revolving credit). It analyses both vertical and horizontal trust, and the depth of linkage to growth and sustainability of entrepreneurship in the informal sector.

The chapter invokes experiences of informal sector entrepreneurs including itinerant hawkers (machinga), food vendors (mama lishe or mama ntilie) and motorcycle drivers (bodaboda). The unique trust-based approaches mali kwa mali and mali kauli in entrepreneurial undertakings extends from colonial times to post economic liberalisation and contemporary Tanzania. Mali kauli, a creative traditional credit practice, is a unique approach that facilitates and sustains micro-retail sub-sector and livelihoods in urban and rural Tanzania. Although the objective remains business profitability, sustainability of entrepreneurial ventures does not depend on it alone. Trust and EI are well invested in these approaches.

The chapter draws from past work on managing in the informal economy to derive theoretical and practical implications, and how trust and EI plays a role in the Tanzanian informal entrepreneurial circles.


Traditional African Health Systems (TAHS) is one of the earliest systems of health care known to humankind. It remains a sustainable practice in many indigenous cultures and in Africa accounts for the great majority of cures for illnesses despite the advent of Western Medicine. This chapter explores the concept of TAHS and the specialisations that constitute it. It looks at relational and contextual factors in the practitioners of TAHS within the continent that explain its viability. There are resources and knowledge passed on from generation to generation which make African Traditional Medicines a force to be reckoned with.

The authors look at the specific system of health education contained in the health-related adages which foster wisdom with respect to prevention, diagnosis, and treatment of ailments. Situating education in its cultural context is one of the factors that has promoted TAHS. The authors compare some of these factors with Western Medicine and outline the benefits of encouraging mutuality rather than the dominance of one over the other. TAHS will definitely be a practice in the future and prospects have to include continued research in the areas of pharmacognosy, medical ethics, responsible health care, and education.


The melting pot of trade and commerce in present day Zambia dates to the interactions between the peoples who inhabited the territory, their new migratory neighbours fleeing regional conflicts and consequent interactions with European explorers attempting to penetrate the interior region of south central Africa. Today, Zambia is a blend of 73 multi-ethnic groups that have inter-married, coexisted and crossed paths with many central, eastern and southern African societies and empires in the name of trade, expansion and exploration. The Zambian chapter explores what practices were part of their societal structures and what has survived the fusion of migrants whether intra-continental or beyond. This chapter also presents the subsequent post-independence complex society under the Zambian identity and the author reflects on how Africans can manage affairs responsibly.


Wisdom from Africa comes in different forms: proverbs, adages, folktales with moral lessons, the use of figurative speech which transmit deep messages, a variety of wise sayings, songs, etc. Such wisdom guided many interactions including those relating to trade, entrepreneurship and other activities that drive the dynamics of economies. African communities are well known for a sense of communal living and a concern for others often manifested as solidarity. Aggregating the combined data from the preceding chapters, this final chapter in Volume 2 of Responsible Management in Africa explores the role of these two realities that are part of the African cultural heritage in promoting solidarity and inclusion. Four themes emerge: values-based education, mutual trust, personal social responsibility and sustainability factors. Beyond these four, since responsible businesses ought to have inclusive growth among their goal, they can also apply the knowledge of traditional values such as Ubuntu and Omoluabi for tackling challenges to sustainable development and contributing to attaining an ethical economy.

Cover of Responsible Management in Africa, Volume 2: Ethical Work and Sustainability
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