The Next Frontier: Enabling Sustainable Entrepreneurs in Sub-Saharan Africa. : An empirical investigation on the drivers of sustainable entrepreneurship in Sub-Saharan ecosystems, and the enablement of solutions for Grand Challenges.
Abstract: Research Background: Climate change poses a core threat to the current and future welfare of society. Sub-Saharan Africa is particularly susceptible to challenges associated with climate change, most of which are bound to have large-scale societal impacts. Fortunately, Grand Challenges (GCs) can also enable opportunities for sustainable entrepreneurship to emerge. As entrepreneurs work in larger interrelated ecosystems, it is noteworthy to explore the utilization of ecosystems to develop sustainable ventures that address GCs. Current research has not addressed the interplay between external enablers and entrepreneurial ecosystems, especially in the Sub-Saharan context. The focus of this study is to explore how sustainable entrepreneurs acted on GCs in the pursuit of venture opportunities, and how ecosystems were utilized to foster the development of entrepreneurial agents and their ventures. Research Purpose: The purpose of this research is to identify how GCs facilitate sustainable entrepreneurship in Sub-Saharan Africa, given the interaction between entrepreneurs, their ecosystems, and climate change-associated GCs. Method: The research paradigm for this study follows critical realism. Meaning, we question the nature of reality as inherently multilayered and align with epistemic relativism. An explorative interview-based study was adopted for our methodology. We sampled our interview candidates purposively through the formation of several criteria. In total, we collected data from 20 semi-structured interviews through online platforms. We analyzed our data by interpreting principles of thematic analysis and the theory- building approach, to connect empirical themes to theoretical constructs. Conclusion: The results for this study show that sustainable entrepreneurs act on a wide variety of GCs. Within ecosystems, we noticed that sustainable development, cultural belief systems, educational infrastructure, governance, and resource accessibility influence the potential for ecosystems to develop. Specifically, we adopted three dimensions in which these pillars have influences: the entrepreneurial, communal, and structural level. The findings indicated that the scope of external enablers is fluid due to ecosystem interactions. Moreover, opacity and agency-intensity of enabling mechanisms can be reduced by developing entrepreneurial ecosystems. We also noted that entrepreneurs themselves can take on the role of ecosystem-builders. Our findings revised current understandings of sustainable entrepreneurship and redefined the concept to create a more inclusive label.
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