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3.0 The African Entrepreneur Personal Traits: Entrepreneurs and entrepreneurship in Africa



(Journal of Developmental Entrepreneurship, Oct 2002 by Kiggundu, Moses N)

More than twenty personal traits of entrepreneurs have been linked to entrepreneurial success in Africa (LeVine, 1966; Benedict, 1979; Frese, 2000), and elsewhere (Stewart, 1996). Debate continues as to whether psychological variables, socio-demographic factors or external factors are the best determinants of entrepreneurial behavior and performance (Frese, 2000; Buame, 1996). For example, Buame observed that in Ghana, individual characteristics are not sufficient to explain the nature of entrepreneurial success or failure. Keyser et al. (2000) have shown empirically that "psychological factors may be more important than sociodemographic ones" (p. 44). LeVine used McClelland's (1961) need for achievement paradigm to differentiate the various Nigerian ethnic groups in terms of their entrepreneurial effectiveness. Consistent with historical experiences, achievement scores were highest for the Ibo, lowest for the Housa, with the Yoruba being in between. Similarly, Benedict in a study of African (Creole), Chinese, and East Indians in the Seychelles found successful entrepreneurs to be characterized by high physical energy, confidence to act on opportunities, adaptability to changing conditions, and ability to inspire others.

Perhaps the strongest empirical evidence in support of the efficacy of individual traits as predictors of entrepreneurial success comes from the Giessen-Amsterdam studies by Frese and his associates. In a carefully designed series of studies of five African countries (Tanzania, Uganda, Zambia, Zimbabwe, and South Africa), they found that psychological variables such as personal initiative, innovativeness, entrepreneurial orientation, and autonomy differentiated successful from less successful entrepreneurs. The central tenet of these studies is that the actions of the entrepreneur, influenced by his or her personal attributes, explain differences in reaction to the environment. The study concluded, "The five studies show that psychological variables are important predictors of micro business firms" (Frese, 2000, p. 162).


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References: Constraints of growth-oriented enterprises in the southern and eastern African region
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The Journal of Developmental Entrepreneurship (JDE) provides a forum for the dissemination of descriptive, empirical, and theoretical research that focuses on issues concerning microenterprise and small business development, especially under conditions of adversity.
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