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Research Cooperation with Africa

“Doing Business in Africa” research project goes to Ghana

By Sven Rottner

To initiate potential research collaboration and to expand their university and corporate network, the team of the Doing Business in Africa research group at ESB Business School spent an intensive research week in the Ghanaian capital Accra. Professor Philipp von Carlowitz and Dr. Simon Züfle participated in an academic workshop, conducted research activities and discussed research results with representatives of research and industry.

The trip kicked off with a workshop organized by the Doing Business in Africa project team along with the University of Ghana and the Kiel Institute for the World Economy. The workshop focused on presentations of papers, followed by a discussion that invited a lively exchange.

The range of topics covered by the presentations was broad. Among the topics presented and discussed were the organizational capabilities and performance of small and medium-sized enterprises (SMEs) in Ghana, overcoming the challenges of doing business in Ghana, and the impact of gender diversity on business success.

Dr. Simon Züfle took the opportunity to present the interim status of an academic article on the Chinese Silk Road Initiative. He summarized the paper as follows: "We are particularly interested in the business potential that exists for non-Chinese companies in sub-Saharan Africa in cooperation with companies from China. The concept of third market cooperation plays an important role in this."

The research trip also offered the opportunity to talk to professors and sound out potential research collaborations or to prepare joint applications for applied research. Therefore, the team held discussions with colleagues from the University of Ghana as well as with the Ghana Institute of Management and Public Administration (GIMPA).  In addition, there were also various opportunities for Professor Philipp von Carlowitz and Dr. Simon Züfle to speak with representatives of both German companies in Ghana and local African companies.

Some of these interviews were within the scope of the current research activity. The project team conducted semi-structured interviews with representatives of African companies that maintain a distribution partnership with German companies. The results of these interviews are being incorporated into an academic article that examines the success factors of distribution partnerships between German companies and local distributors in African markets. Initial findings suggest that mutual trust, commitment and open communication are essential for long-term success.

At the end of the research trip, Professor Philipp von Carlowitz gave a lecture at the German Chamber of Commerce in Ghana on the topic "Is China Eating Us Alive? Business Implications of China's Activities in Africa." In it, he emphasized, "We should not view Chinese companies exclusively as competitors, but also as cooperation partners and customers so as to enable and maintain healthy business relationships." The short presentation was followed by a lively discussion with German companies.

Professor von Carlowitz looks back on the week in Ghana with great satisfaction: "During our research stay, we came into contact with many representatives of research and industry and came across some interesting points that will certainly be incorporated into our further research."

About the Doing Business in Africa project:

The ESB Business School's “Doing Business in Africa” research group investigates private sector engagement in sub-Saharan African markets, with a particular focus on identifying new profitable business models with positive environmental and social impacts. The project and the research trip to Ghana are part of the Economic Research in Africa Cluster, which is funded by Germany’s Ministries of Economics and of Climate Protection and Finance.