Research Article

The Africa we want and the Africa we see: How scholarship from Africa stands to enrich global scholarship

Published in: Africa Journal of Management
Volume 6, issue 2, 2020 , pages: 132–143
DOI: 10.1080/23322373.2020.1753493
Author(s): Helena Barnard, South Africa


This paper grew out of a keynote I delivered at the Academy of International Business Africa chapter meeting in Ghana, 2019, and was further honed in the review process. I share how emotionally challenging I sometimes find it to be a scholar of Africa, and some insights I have gained over time about meeting that challenge. Our work is strengthened when we honestly document what we find, using both scientific principles and global scholarship to guide us. But our scholarship can also enrich research globally in three ways: Insights we gain from our extreme conditions, our greater opportunities to study some phenomena, e.g. faith in business, and finally because Africans sometimes simply see things differently, e.g. African understandings of how the workplace relates to personal circumstances. I offer examples of how we can deal with the data challenges in Africa. We need to explain more carefully our setting to help readers from other contexts understand ours. We do not always recognize or play to our data strengths, and sometimes need to innovate evidence. I conclude by reiterating the need to combine an honest documentation of what we see from our African vantage point with a deep knowledge of current global scholarship.

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