CfP: Out of Africa – World Congress on Business History, Bergen 2016

‘OUT OF AFRICA’: The Globalisation of African Enterprises.

Call for Papers: 1st World Congress on Business History / University of Bergen, 2016.


An open call for papers from researchers of African Business History for the World Congress on Business History to be held 25th – 27th August 2016, in Bergen Norway. By bringing together business and economic historians of Africa, this panel seeks to strengthen the study of business history in Africa. Collaborating with new and existing scholars from the field, and a rich sample of case studies from across Africa, the panel aims to publish special issues on African business history in the global context. The deadline for abstracts is March 25th, 2016. Please send a maximum of 1000 words, outlining the proposed paper to Edward Kerby, London School of Economics and LEAP (Stellenbosch),




Grietjie Verhoef   & Edward Kerby

The African continent is largely missing from debates in business history with numerous method- ological and archival challenges. Yet recent headlines extoll how business is coming to Africa, with 3 of the 10 fastest growing global cities. A continent of 54 counties, it is home to a billion consumers. Bypassing the constraints of legacy infrastructure, half of the population are under the age of 15 and adopting new technology. With this growth, African enterprises have also been globalising. No longer can the continent be merely seen as a source of commodities or a recipient of aid, but rather a rapidly expanding market with African business champions meeting rising demands. This change has led to a greater focus on the internationalisation of enterprises, the role of foreign direct investment and the historical roots of African enterprises.


Yet African businesses have not operated in a vacuum but were shaped by the first wave of globalisa- tion, decolonisation and 50 years of independence. This lends their histories to comparative case studies with globalisation from Asia and Latin America. With unique opportunities and challenges, African businesses have adapted to diverse geographic, political and institutional settings. Multinationals from Africa are less well-known, such as MTN (ICT), Standard Bank (Finance) or Dangote (Industrials), but so are small and medium sized enterprises expanding operations outside of home borders. These businesses offers unique political, cultural, ethnic and migrant narratives from which business history scholarship can draw.


The main assumption of this panel is that a historical exploration of enterprises “Out of Africa” can shed light on the past development path of business in Africa, as well as informing current and future African business leaders. These include, but are by no means limited to the deeper understanding of patterns of internationalisation, the impact of macroeconomic and political context on African FDI, patterns of adaptation, organisation and management of African firms, entrepreneurial qualities of African business leaders, the state in business development, business groups, the impact of inward FDI on African business, culture and ethnicity in African business, etc.


Expected  Participants:

  1. Chaired by Christopher Kobrak, ESCP Europe and University of Toronto.
  2. Same as Co-ordinating
  3. Chibuike Uche, African Studies Centre,


∗CO-ORDINATING ORGANISERS: Grietjie Verhoef, University of Johannesburg.

†Edward Kerby, London School of Economics and LEAP (Stellenbosch).