The tangled historical roots of entrepreneurial growth aspirations

Stephanie Decker, Saul Estrin, Tomasz Mickiewicz

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


Research Summary: We consider what configurations of historical and geographic dimensions influence entrepreneurial growth aspirations (EGA). Our theoretical framework combines geography (coastal location, resource dependence), long-term colonial history (ethnic heterogeneity, legal origins), and postcolonial history (low levels of conflict and population displacement; not having “bad neighbors”). We employ abductive reasoning to link the social science and historical literatures via analytically structured histories of Ghana, Nigeria, and Angola. Next, we undertake a fuzzy set qualitative comparative analysis on sub-Saharan Africa countries to investigate which particular configurations of these dimensions are important for EGA. We demonstrate the importance of configurations over individual variables and add context-bound dimensions to the study of entrepreneurship in developing countries, through historical analysis. Managerial Summary: Our analysis may offer entrepreneurs a template for identifying potential opportunities and threats in order to calibrate their strategies for scaling up their venture in sub-Saharan Africa. We argue that environments rich in entrepreneurial growth opportunities are associated with configurations where negative aspects are more than compensated by positive ones. For Botswana, the low levels of internal conflict compensate for unfavorable location. For Angola, the positive impact of coastal location and relatively low ethnic heterogeneity counterbalance the negative effect of resource rents. Resource-driven economies are more entrepreneurial: better economic opportunities can sometimes result from having extractive industries. For African entrepreneurs it is not only relevant what happens in their own countries, as their opportunities are directly affected by economic or political turmoil in neighboring countries.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)616-638
Number of pages23
JournalStrategic entrepreneurship journal
Issue number4
Early online date28 Feb 2020
Publication statusPublished - Dec 2020

Bibliographical note

© 2020 The Authors. Strategic Entrepreneurship Journal published by John Wiley & Sons Ltd on behalf of Strategic Management Society.

This is an open access article under the terms of the Creative Commons Attribution‐NonCommercial License, which permits use, distribution and reproduction in any medium, provided the original work is properly cited and is not used for commercial purposes.


  • Africa
  • entrepreneurship
  • global entrepreneurship monitor
  • history
  • qualitative comparative analysis


Dive into the research topics of 'The tangled historical roots of entrepreneurial growth aspirations'. Together they form a unique fingerprint.

Cite this