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Trust and West African Exporting SME Networks

  • Omeihe, Kingsley Obi.
  • Gustafsson, Veronika.
  • Amoako, Isaac O..
  • Khan, Mohammad Saud.
Publication Date
Nov 14, 2019
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Topic: Trust and West African SME Networks Applicability to the conference theme: From our viewpoint, the goal of this paper is to expose the notion that very little is known about trust and SME networks from a West African perspective. With this in mind, gaining rich and well-grounded insights into this research phenomena assumes paramount significance. In particular, the unique and distinct applicability of this study lies in its contextual dimension. Thus, in exploring new frontiers and entrepreneurial places, this paper presents a fundamental challenge to prevalent perspectives on trust and SME networks which have been centered on a western model approach. Aim: This paper makes a case for the examination of trust based on the notion that trust differs across contexts. This is important as a study of this nature provides a basis for uncovering new aspects of trust and SME research. Hence, this paper aims to investigate the role of trust in West African SME networks. Methodology: This paper draws on an interpretivist approach in response to calls for more qualitative research on entrepreneurship. The empirical component is focused on multiple case studies of 42 SME owner/managers drawn through purposive sampling. The choice of the selected respondents was aimed at comparing perceptions and experiences as it relates to their particular environment. Data was collected through semi-structured interviews held at cross border markets. Thematic analysis was used in analysing, identifying and reporting patterns within data. This was essential as it ensured the interpretation of various aspects of the data in rich detail. Lastly, the consideration for limiting bias was minimised through reflexivity of being on guard about the certain preconceptions and assumptions introduce into the study. This involved daily introspections, note keeping, observing market relationships and informal discussions. Contribution: Central to this paper, is its valuable contribution which highlights the importance of trust in the activities of West African SME networks. In this light, networks were found to be a source of complementary resources for SMEs and they were developed based on ties to family/kinship, religion, ethnicity and trade associations. Thus, SME owner/managers were found to gain a plethora of benefits such as access to credit, market information, and dispute resolution. In this vein, this paper provides a sophisticated contextual approach to uncovering trust and supports the growing importance of African research on SME networks. Implications for policy: This paper provides more first-hand policy implications. The case study of West African SMEs highlights the importance of trust and network relationships especially in contexts where the local actors may not be able to depend on formal legal institutions. In this vein, future policy formulations should acknowledge that SMEs play an important role in West African development. Hence, these benefits must be properly harnessed. Further, a major empirical finding revealed that all the respondents interviewed for this study

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