THUNDERBIRD INTERNATIONAL BUSINESS REVIEW
Call for Papers
Special Issue: “The Internationalization of African Firms: Nature, Drivers, Outcomes and
Proposed Deadline for submission of Manuscripts: 30 December, 2016
Africa’s participation in international business and world trade has been a topic of intense
scholarly, practitioner and policy debates for several decades (Ibeh, Wilson, & Chizema,
2012). While some have argued that Africa economies are improving and becoming
relevant in the international business arena (Marzo & Patterson, 2010), there is a growing
contention that Africa is still unable to contribute meaningfully to the global economy
given the dominance of commodities and raw materials in Africa’s international trade
activities (Henson, Masakure, & Cranfield, 2011). While the debates continue, evidence is
emerging to suggest that the speed, scope and scale at which African firms have been
investing in the global economy is growing (McNamee, Pearson & Boer, 2015; Krüger &
Strauss, 2015). For example, in the financial services industry, more than 70 African
banks have emerged to become dominant international players (Beck, Fuchs, Singer &
Witte, 2014): Ecobank, Standard Bank and First National Bank individually hold over 30%
of banking assets in nine countries. Beyond banking, African multinationals have emerged
in the telecommunications, manufacturing, energy, agribusiness, aviation, and technology
sectors, with firms such as MTN, SABMiller, Telkom, Dimensions Data, Massmart,
Nampak, Shoprite, Dangote, Oando, Glo, Interswitch, Nakumatt, Smile and Sasol
expanding to several countries and positioning themselves as major international players
(Adeleye, Ibeh, Kinoti & White, 2015).
Given these impressive performances of African multinationals on the global stage in
recent times, the Boston Consulting Group have identified 40 African global challengers,
18 from Southern Africa, 17 from North Africa region, 3 from Western Africa, 2 from
South-Eastern Africa. There are five categories of these African challengers: The Big
Local Players: these are African multinationals with assets and sales which are more than
90% domestic, but continue to record impressive international activity gradually; the
Exporters: these are firms that have a vast majority of their coming from exporting
operations, but have assets that are largely local; the Regional Players: African firms
with at least 10% of their assets located outside of their home country but within Africa;
the Multi-continental Players having at least 10% of their assets outside of Africa; and the
Global Players comprising of African multinationals with more than half of their assets
outside of the continent.
The current trend in the internationalization of African firms reveals a picture of a unique
variety of factors propelling African firms to internationalize: reliance on formal and
informal networking ties; the tendency to serve regional African markets; the dominance
of the service sector, rising number of early stage and minority entrepreneurs, among
others. Given the rising number of African firms on the international stage, Africa has
recently been captured in the global press for being at the receiving end of burgeoning
international business and politics (Schwarz & Yellin, 2013). For example, a recent Ernest
and Young’s business attractiveness survey concluded that “While skeptics still abound […]
a critical mass of African economies have grown at high and sustained rates; so much so
that, despite the impact of the ongoing global economic situation, the size of the African
economy has more than tripled since 2000. The outlook also appears positive, with many
parts of the region forecast to continue experiencing relatively high growth rates and a
number of African economies predicted to remain among the fastest growing in the world
for the foreseeable future” (Ernest and Young, 2013: 4). Notwithstanding these promising
trajectories, several issues remain unresolved. For example, questions are asked about
how much of these international business activities are truly Africa originated and
whether African firms are ready to handle the influx of foreign multinationals hurrying to
Africa to take advantage of the emerging opportunities on the continent (Bräutigam &
Xiaoyang, 2011). The increasing internationalization of African markets has also drawn
attention to related issues of Africa’s inadequate infrastructure, undersupplied skilled
workforce, weak market-supporting institutions, militarized borders, and heterogeneous
Despite these unique but intriguing features, empirical research directly examining the
nature, drivers, outcomes and boundary conditions of the internationalization behavior of
African firms is lacking. While recent scholarly international business (IB) works have
focused on economic renaissance occurring in Africa (Nwankwo, 2012) and with leading
IB scholars calling for greater coverage of African related topics in the IB literature (e.g.,
Teagarden, 2009; Babarinde, 2009), scholarly efforts to understand how African firms are
strategically managed for international competitiveness have only recently begun to take
shape (e.g., Kropp, Lindsay, & Shoham, 2006; Fukunishi, 2009). This call, therefore, is an
attempt to draw scholarly attention to interesting and challenging research themes on
African firms investing in the global economy. To this end, this call seeks manuscripts
that help enrich scholarly understanding of how conditions in Africa help explain the
nature, drivers, outcomes and boundary conditions of internationalization behavior of
African firms. Studies that examine international business activities of African firms of all
sizes (including micro, small and large multinational enterprises) and ownership forms
(e.g., state-owned, privately-owned, private-public partnership enterprises) are welcome.
We welcome both conceptual and empirical (quantitative, qualitative or mixed method)
papers that address the following research questions or topics:
1. Do African firms exhibit unique internationalization behaviors that can help extent
extant IB theory?
2. What are the motivations for, and outcomes of, Africa-to-Africa internationalization
3. Do similar-aged African multinationals internationalize in the same manner as other
emerging market or developed economy multinationals?
4. Do African foreign direct investors emphasize different factors than non-African
investors in deciding if and how to invest in Africa?
5. Do African multi-continental and global players emphasize different factors when
investing in Africa than non-African countries?
6. What are ownership advantages in the context of intra-African Foreign Direct
Investment (FDI)? How can internationalizing African firms help broaden the concept of
7. How do the springboard and linkage-leverage-learning perspectives apply to
internationalizing African firms?
8. To what extent do colonial heritage influence location decisions of internationalizing
African firms? Do regional economic blocs (e.g. Economic Community of West African
States) and trade agreements play a role in the international location decisions of
internationalizing African firms?
9. What kinds of resources and capabilities do African firms need to internationalize
10. To what extent can managerial network ties help or hurt internationalization of
11. Do rapidly internationalizing African firms perform better than their counterparts
that follow a more gradual process of internationalization?
12. How do institutional conditions in African markets help African firms penetrate and
grow in foreign markets with similar conditions?
13. How do industry-, country-, sub-regional-, regional-specific or firm-specific factors
condition the international performance effects of international strategies of African
14. What role does stakeholder engagement play in the internationalization of African
15. Can international companies operating in African markets enhance their
performance by being good corporate citizens? Does commitment to corporate social
responsibility (CSR) and sustainability initiatives translate into positive financial results in
Africa? What factors moderate the impact of CSR and sustainability strategies on
performance for internationalizing African firms?
Kindly note that the above listed research questions or topics are in no way exhaustive.
We encourage authors to think about research questions that creatively address the core
theme of the special issue call.
Dr. Nathaniel Boso, University of Leeds, UK
Prof. Kevin Ibeh, Birkbeck University of London, UK
Prof. Amon Chizema, University of Birmingham, UK
Dr. Ifedapo Adeleye, Lagos Business School, Nigeria
Guidelines and Submission Information
All manuscripts should be submitted to the special issue at manuscript central at:
http://mc.manuscriptcentral.com/tibr. Authors must follow directions for submission for
submitting manuscripts to TIBR, which available at
6874/homepage/ForAuthors.html. It is important for authors to note that all papers
submitted to the Special Issue will be subjected to double-blind peer review in accordance
with TIBR guidelines. For further information please contact any of the Guest Editors for
this Special Issue.
A special paper development workshop will be organized on this theme at the Academy of
International Business Sub-Sahara Africa Conference in August 2016 in Lagos, Nigeria.
Adeleye, I., Ibeh, K., Kinoti, A. & White, L. (2015). The Changing Dynamics of
International Business in Africa. Basingstoke and New York: Palgrave Macmillan.
Babarinde, O. A. (2009). Africa is open for business: A continent on the move.
Thunderbird International Business Review, 51(4), 319-328.
Bräutigam, D. & Xiaoyang, T. (2011). African Shenzhen: China's special economic zones in
Africa. Journal of Modern African Studies, 49, 1, 27-54.
Ernst and Young (2013). Getting Down to Business: 2013 Attractiveness Survey. Ernst and
Young: Emerging Markets Center.
Fukunishi, T. (2009). Has Low Productivity Constrained the Competitiveness of African
Firms? A Comparison of Kenyan and Bangladeshi Garment Firms. The Developing
Economies, 47(3), 307-339.
Henson, S., Masakure, O., & Cranfield, J. (2011). Do fresh produce exporters in sub-
Saharan Africa benefit from GlobalGAP certification? World Development, 39(3), 375-386.
Ibeh, K., Wilson, J., & Chizema, A. (2012). The internationalization of African firms 1995–
2011: Review and implications. Thunderbird International Business Review, 54(4), 411-
Kropp, F., Lindsay, N. J., & Shoham, A. (2006). Entrepreneurial, market, and learning
orientations and international entrepreneurial business venture performance in South
African firms. International Marketing Review, 23(5), 504-523.
Krüger, R. & Strauss, I. (2015) “Africa rising out of itself: The growth of intra-African FDI”,
Columbia FDI Perspectives, 139: January 19.
Marzo, F., & Patterson, S. (2010). Africa’s outlook. OECD Observer, 279, 64–65.
McNamee, T., Pearson, M. & Boer, W. (2015) Africans Investing in Africa: Understanding
Business and Trade, Sector by Sector. Basingstoke and New York: Palgrave Macmillan.
Nwankwo, S. (2012). Renascent Africa: Rescoping the landscape of international business.
Thunderbird International Business Review, 54(4), 405-409.
Schwarz, G. and Yellin, J. (2013). Obama in Tanzania, sees Africa as next global economic
success. Available online at www.cnn.com/2013/07/01/world/africa/tanzania-
Teagarden, M. B. (2009). Sub‐Saharan Africa at a key inflection point. Thunderbird
International Business Review, 51(4), 317-318.
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