From Innovation to Sustainability: Life-Cycle Polylemmas and Strategic Initiatives for Entrepreneurship in Africa

  • Jerry Kolo
Part of the Palgrave Studies of Sustainable Business in Africa book series (PSSBA)


This chapter proposes some strategic initiatives for African governments, corporations, non-profits and citizens to take, in an effort to deploy innovation and knowledge to build the capacity of entrepreneurs, thereby enabling them to produce goods and services that are profitable in the marketplace. The chapter argues that Africa’s role and presence in the global creative economy are weak. Africa is marginalised from the creative economy, and the polylemmas inhibiting the continent’s active and rewarding participation in the global economy must be addressed through concerted efforts and collaboration by all stakeholders at the local, national and international levels, and by deploying innovation and knowledge, along with other requisite political, economic and institutional reforms. Entrepreneurship has been the key to the economic success and, to some extent, political and strategic pre-eminence of the advanced countries. Africa is in a race for time, as the population explodes, driving rapid urbanisation and the growth of slums, and the need for schools and health centres places enormous pressure on the meagre resources of states. These issues are exacerbated by extraneous factors such as climate change, terrorism and global economic volatilities. Addressing the polylemmas identified through the research and interviews conducted for this chapter should equip and enable entrepreneurs to produce goods and services for local and international markets. Entrepreneurship has the potential to foster self-fulfilment and self-reliance, patriotism and sustainable development. It should provide a way for African countries with mono-economies to develop diversified and vibrant economies. It is a powerful weapon for growth and development, and the innovation and knowledge needed to fuel it are readily available in the global market. The initiatives proposed in this chapter are simple, pragmatic and feasible. True to the aim of this chapter, they are innovative and knowledge-based, and their adaptation can trigger the change needed to catapult African entrepreneurs into the global theatre of the creative economy.


  1. Anderson, M., & Galatsidas, A. (2014). Urban population boom poses massive challenges for Africa and Asia. Available at:
  2. Barclay, R., & Murray, P. (1997). What is knowledge management? Knowledge Praxis. Available at:
  3. Dalkir, K. (2005). Knowledge management in theory and practice. Burlington: Elsevier Butterworth–Heinemann.Google Scholar
  4. Drucker, P. F. (1985). Innovation and entrepreneurship. New York: Harper Business.Google Scholar
  5. Easterly, W., & Levine, R. (1997). Africa’s growth tragedy: Policies and ethnic divisions. The Quarterly Journal of Economics, 112(4), 1203–1250 Available at: Scholar
  6. El Houssamy, N. (2016). Exploring knowledge and innovation in Africa. Available at:
  7. Elahi, S., de Beer, J., Kawooya, D., Oguamanam, C., & Rizk, N. (2013). Knowledge and innovation in Africa: Scenarios for the future. Cape Town: Open A.I.R. Network.Google Scholar
  8. Elemelu, T. (2015). Africapitalism: A philosophy for the era of sustainable development. Available at:
  9. Fik, T. J. (2000). The geography of economic development: Regional changes, global challenges (2nd ed.). New York: McGraw-Hill.Google Scholar
  10. Florida, R. (2002). The rise of the creative class: And how it’s transforming work, leisure, community and everyday life. New York: Basic Books.Google Scholar
  11. Gibney, J. (2015). Debate continues: Why Africa isn’t rising, resource curse and how everyone – Including the west, World Bank – Is all in on it. Available at:
  12. Howkins, J. (2001). The creative economy: How people make money from ideas. New York: Penguin Books.Google Scholar
  13. Kolo, J. (2006). An analysis of strategic issues in institutionalizing a financial systems approach for microenterprise development in Africa. Managerial Finance, 32(7), 594605.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  14. Kolo, J. (2009). The knowledge economy: Concept, global trends and strategic challenges for Africa in the quest for sustainable development. International Journal of Technology Management, 45(1/2), 2749.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  15. Mugabe, J. (2009). Knowledge and innovation for Africa’s development: Priorities, policies and program. Prepared for the World Bank Institute.
  16. Murray, R., Caulier-Grice, J., & Mulgan, G.(2010). The open book of social innovation. The young foundation.
  17. Piotrowski, J. (2015). What is a knowledge economy? Available at:
  18. Rowden, R. (2013). The myth of Africa’s rise. Available at:
  19. Rowden, R. (2015). Africa’s boom is over. Available at:
  20. Sarfo, A. (2013). The uncomfortable truth: The myth of Africa’s rise. Available at:
  21. Satell, G. (2013). How to manage innovation. Available at:
  22. Schirtzinger, A. (2016). 10 Innovation-killers – And how to neutralize them. Available at:
  23. Schumpeter, J. A. (1934). The theory of economic development: An inquiry into profits, capital, credit, interest, and the business cycle. Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press.Google Scholar
  24. Shaughnessy, H. (2013). Six ideas driving the future of innovation. Available at:
  25. Spooner, S. (2015). Africa rising narrative takes a hit as index shows business environment declining since 2011. Available at:
  26. Tinsley, R. (2015). Africa’s angry young men. Available at:
  27. U.S. Department of State (Bureau of International Information Program). (2007). Principles of entrepreneurship: What is entrepreneurship? Available at:
  28. Weheba, N. (2015). Why we need to reconsider how knowledge and innovation are measured.

Copyright information

© The Author(s) 2017

Open Access This chapter is licensed under the terms of the Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial 2.5 International License (, which permits any noncommercial use, sharing, adaptation, distribution and reproduction in any medium or format, as long as you give appropriate credit to the original author(s) and the source, provide a link to the Creative Commons license and indicate if changes were made.

The images or other third party material in this chapter are included in the chapter's Creative Commons license, unless indicated otherwise in a credit line to the material. If material is not included in the chapter's Creative Commons license and your intended use is not permitted by statutory regulation or exceeds the permitted use, you will need to obtain permission directly from the copyright holder.

Authors and Affiliations

  • Jerry Kolo
    • 1
  1. 1.College of Architecture, Art & Design, Master of Urban Planning ProgramAmerican University of SharjahSharjahUAE

Personalised recommendations