Understanding Social Entrepreneurship in the African Context: An Exploratory Review of Evidence From Nigeria

Understanding Social Entrepreneurship in the African Context: An Exploratory Review of Evidence From Nigeria

Bamidele A. Wale-Oshinowo (University of Lagos, Nigeria), Chijioke Dike Uba (University of Northampton, UK), Mercy M. Adeyeye (Federal University of Technology, Nigeria) and Ayotunle Olumuyiwa Omobowale (University of Ibadan, Nigeria)
DOI: 10.4018/978-1-5225-6298-6.ch010


Social enterprises are organizations created with the aim of applying entrepreneurial skills and innovations to solving social problems. They are managed by individuals who combine pragmatic and result-oriented methods of a business entrepreneur with the goals of a social reformer. Such enterprises combine resources in innovative ways to create social value in and for the society. However, social enterprises may face challenges that impact their ability to accomplish social goals. For instance, when confronted with the harsh realities of economic recession, teaming poor population, and the need to profit for social intervention, social enterprises existing in hostile economic environment in developing countries may face possibilities of shutdown. This chapter examines the concept of social entrepreneurship in a subsisting economy in Africa. Specifically, it draws from relevant primary and secondary data to explore the nature of social entrepreneurship in the Nigeria context and the potential role that social entrepreneurship can play in addressing social problems.
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While entrepreneurship is rightly identified as a major vehicle for economic growth, it needs to be considered and operationalised as a vehicle with the potential of creating values (e.g. social and environmental) that can simultaneously address the different dimensions of societal sustainability. The role that Social Entrepreneurship (SE) could play in this regard becomes worthy of consideration in the sense that SE extends the discussion and application of entrepreneurship to addressing social problems. The crux of our argument here is that although Nigeria is connected to the vision of entrepreneurship, the emergence of an entrepreneurial economy in Nigeria that combines the commercial and social dimensions of enterprise will, no doubt, enhance economic and social sustainability in the country. This is consistent with the view that the entrepreneurial economy is not only about commercial enterprise but also the social enterprise, and echoes the core assumptions of Social Entrepreneurship, i.e., that entrepreneur can create organisations that make profits and offer social benefit simultaneously for the community (Alberto, 2014). A fundamental issue worth exploring, therefore, pertains to understanding the nature of Social Entrepreneurship and the potential roles that it can play in addressing social problems in Nigeria and, correspondingly, other developing African countries. This chapter aims to address this two-fold issue. Focusing on Nigeria, a significant economy and political force within the region, as done in this Chapter, provides a broad view of the nature of social entrepreneurship in the broader African (and potentially, wider African perspective) region.

Key Terms in this Chapter

Entrepreneurship: This is the process of creating a new product/service or re-invention of an existing product or service. It is a phenomenon embedded in entrepreneurial activities that usually involves creating something new or re-inventing an existing process.

Context: This describes and explains the circumstances or setting in which something can be understood.

Social Problems: This is an array of general factors that directly and indirectly affect the society negatively.

Qualitative Methodology: This is a methodological approach that employs a scientific way to gather non-numerical data.

Social Entrepreneurship: It is an entrepreneurial activity that innovatively addresses social needs within a society.

Social Entrepreneur: A social entrepreneur is someone who uses innovate and creative approaches or technology to address identified social problems within the society.

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