Africa Works Panel: New Business Models and Work at the Bottom of the Pyramid

Tomorrow, I am going to be chairing a panel at the Africa Works conference in Leiden.The panel was designed to try and ask the most important question about ‘Bottom of the Pyramid’ capitalism: what kinds of work, jobs and economic opportunities does it bring poor people in Africa? I am very excited to welcome three interesting speakers to discuss this question with us. Here is more info:


headingSeeking to combine economic and social goals, a number of new business models have emerged such as Bottom of the Pyramid, frugal innovation, social entrepreneurship and impact sourcing, all hoping to promote ‘inclusive growth’.  This panel seeks to interrogate the impact that these efforts are having on Africa’s workers and entrepreneurs. It brings together different stakeholders from business, civil society and academia to debate whether inclusive markets are helping to make poverty history, or whether they are just making poverty business.

Chair: Laura Mann, Researcher, African Studies Centre, UK


Moses Mwaura, President, Africa Region at Enablis Africa

Impact sourcing promises to bring real economic opportunities to people who really need them. In 2012, the Enablis Rockefeller Impact Sourcing Project (ERISP) launched to take internet-based outsourcing work opportunities to poor and vulnerable people in the town of Kisumu in Kenya. ERISP sought to identify, train and handhold small businesses that could fit the impact outsourcing profile, and connect them with outsourcing opportunities abroad. Moses will talk about the evolution of this program and the main lessons learnt, highlighting both the successes and difficulties faced. He will talk about how these lessons have been fed into their new programs, particularly in their $20m impact fund that seeks to make investments in small businesses in growth sectors in East Africa.

 samerSamer Abdelnour, Assistant Professor, Rotterdam School of Management

The blacksmiths of El-Fashir are among the most socially excluded castes in Darfur. Only a few generations ago they were congregating at the outskirts of towns and villages, practicing their trade in an isolated, subsistence manner. Through a unique, long-standing, and evolving partnership with Practical Action, they have been able to forge through social, economic and political adversity, and today the blacksmiths produce agricultural tools that are widely disseminated across Darfur. Samer Abdelnour will present the case study of Darfur’s blacksmiths, including their evolving business model and relationship with Practical Action, their changing relationships and market activities in Darfur, as well as some notable socioeconomic outcomes. If people wish to download the case study, they can click here


Catherine Dolan, Reader in Anthropology and Sociology, School of Oriental and African Studies and co-founder of the Centre of New Economies of Development.

Catherine’s current research centers on the corporation as an agent of development and how business engages development concerns, from malaria and HIV to women’s empowerment and poverty reduction, under the aegis of ‘responsible capitalism’. Through ethnographic study of base-of-the-pyramid (BoP) schemes, Fairtrade, inclusive markets initiatives, and CSR programmes, she explores the practices through which corporate actors mobilise social networks, informal economic activity, physical infrastructures, and material goods to create new markets among the ‘bottom billion,’ and how the meaning, policies, and ethos of development are shifting through this encounter with the corporate form. In this panel Catherine will speak in particular, about who is benefiting and losing out from these schemes and how they might be leading to new norms around working conditions in Africa.


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