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About the study

Project title
Chinese Organisations in sub-Saharan Africa:  New Dynamics, New Synergies

There is a need in Africa to develop not simply effective organisational management and leadership, but also that which is appropriate to Africa. Similarly, it is not sufficient to develop knowledge for Africa, but to develop knowledge from Africa. African knowledge and culture, pertaining to the science (theory) and practice of Management, has been largely denigrated, as has the knowledge pertaining to Chinese management in Africa.

Brief Summary

China’s presence in Africa is changing geopolitical dynamics impacting at organizational and community levels. Little extant literature focuses on these levels. These dynamics also influence the ways scholars view Chinese activity, often negatively so. Critical theories in international organizational and management studies that draw on Postcolonial Theory focus on North-South dynamics. This may now be inappropriate to critically understanding a new South-South dynamic.

Research at organizational level of Chinese corporations and organizations in Africa is practically non-existent. This may reflect a previous lack of interest by management scholars in sub-Saharan Africa as an area of study. More recently research on this dynamic and important region has increased, yet may still suffer from a lack of theoretical grounding. Contemporary interest in critical studies such as Postcolonial Theory has given theory development an impetus, but still may be falling behind developments in other areas of the social sciences. Similarly theoretical and empirical developments in the study of China abroad are in their infancy. China, of course is present in other ‘Southern’ regions, not just sub-Saharan Africa. Therefore the current work may have wider implications for the further cross-cultural study of organization and management of Chinese organizations in other parts of the world, and for Chinese management policy and practice generally.

This international research project sets out to develop colleagues and capacity within an international collaboration that seeks to:

  • Develop cross-cultural theory and methodology to study these dynamics at an organisational level; and
  • Investigate the nature of Chinese organisational activity and its implications for Africa’s economic, social and community development.

We believe this project will position the research partners at the forefront of research in this area, by leading an international network and through seeking to publish in top management journals in an area that is both topical, has implications for Africa’s future development and implications for geopolitical relations on the World stage. At the same time commitment has been gained from a team of researchers that has the potential to substantially develop their research capacity, together with training doctoral and masters students.

We are expecting to cover at least the following (perhaps some overlapping) areas:

  • Organization and management of Chinese firms in sub-Saharan Africa [organization and management]
  • The nature of HRM and employment relations in Chinese organizations in Africa [HRM]
  • Synergies between Chinese and African cultures and values and implications for managing organizations [cultural synergies]
  • Strategies in practice: managers’ interpretations of strategies and implications [strategies]
  • Stakeholder and community relations [stakeholders]
  • Negotiation relationships [negotiations]
  • The management of ethical values across cultures [ethics].

We are expecting to cover at least the following countries:

  • South Africa
  • Mauritius
  • Botswana
  • Zambia
  • Zimbabwe
  • Nigeria
  • Ghana
  • Cameroon (and other Francophone countries)
  • Tanzania
  • Kenya
  • Uganda

Initial funding of this project has been provided by the Sandisa Imbewu Fund at Rhodes University, with research cooperation between Rhodes University, South Africa; Middlesex University Business School, London; and Nanjing University, China. We are also expecting to involve colleagues from African universities as well as colleagues from the Open University Business School, UK; Stockholm University, Sweden; Catholic University of Lille, France.

The Sandisa Imbewu Fund, meaning ‘We are growing and multiplying our seeds” was initiated by Rhodes Unversity’s Vice-Chancellor Dr Saleem Badat to establish a seed fund for strategic new academic initiatives. The seed fund is aptly named Sandisa Imbewu as it reflects Rhodes University’s strategy to grow its postgraduate student numbers, research and development programmes and to multiply its postgraduate and research outputs towards enhancing its standing as the “Scholarly University”.

The ultimate goal of the Sandisa Imbewu funded project is to develop a research focus area in the Faculty of Commerce that specialises in cross-cultural research on management and leadership in African organisations. This will incorporate an understanding of the global dynamics associated with, in this instance, Chinese presence in Africa. The focus can in time be extended to western and other ‘southern’ presence, such as the other BRIC countries, and their interaction with indigenous leadership and management.  

Ultimately, the Department of Management would like to set the trend in this research area in South Africa in collaboration with its international colleagues, and increase its research scope to include the development of management and leadership knowledge from Africa, its capacity development and its ability to draw scholars from South Africa, other countries in Africa and internationally.

In addition to the Sandisa Imbewu funding, we are actively seeking further funding.
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Last Modified :Thu, 29 Aug 2013 17:51:50 SAST