OUMAR SOUMARE. Managing regional internationalisation in Africa. The case of Malian agro-industrial companies faced with multidimensional obstacles.


How to develop a company internationally in a context of crisis? How to overcome the obstacles? What are the key success factors?  This short paper taken from the author’s Executive DBA thesis, provides some answers based on research carried out with Malian agribusinesses whose objective is to develop in the countries of the West African Economic and Monetary Union regional customs union (UEOMA).

Research impact(s)

Mali has been facing a serious security crisis since 2012, a source of political and economic instability that is hardly conducive to the development of companies on the local market. In order for these companies to expand internationally, the following recommendations are made to managers:

  • The creation of a regional logistics network that ensures the transport of finished products on the outbound journey and raw materials on the return journey (Mali has no direct access to the sea),
  • The use of local raw materials in the production of products,
  • The introduction of integrated sales networks through to depots in the local and regional markets,
  • The development of a range of products accessible to different segments of the population,
  • The development of an offer adapted to orders placed by public authorities.

In order to implement this strategy, and in the face of a failing institutional environment (corruption, fake certificates, smuggling), networking among Malian business leaders to gain influence with the relevant stakeholders is recommended.

On the theoretical level, this research makes a contribution to developing the Uppsala model in the context of a multidimensional crisis. The results show that the majority of exports come from informal exports, and that internationalisation is more a default choice than a truly strategic intention. These results concur with the work of Bah et al (2020) who showed that Senegalese firms are often traditional, historically and strongly embedded in their local market.

Research foundations

The Uppsala model, which describes the internationalisation process of firms in relation to the management of uncertainties and the evolution of the business environment (Vahlne and Johanson 1977), was used. This model has been the subject of successive versions (2009, 2013, 2017, 2020). The main idea of this model is that companies adopt a sequential approach to internationalising their activities, and that the network model is a way of managing the uncertainty associated with the psychological distance between the home and host countries.

Research methodology

The research involved an in-depth case study of one agribusiness, based on 25 semi-structured interviews and a closed questionnaire. This was complemented by secondary data collection on three other agribusinesses and on the Malian economic environment. Data processing was carried out using content analysis via the Sphinx software platform.

Research outcomes confirm the Malian proverb that “Don’t drop the fish in your hand to try to catch the one under your feet” (a bird in the hand is worth two in the bush). Clearly, as the Uppsala model states, the success of an internationalisation strategy depends on a successful local presence.

Further reading…

CROCE, F. (2018). La recherche du management africain au XXIe siècle : sous l’effet de la globalisation, vers un management africain « métis » ? Revue Africaine de Management, Vol.3 (1), pp. 1-12. (The search for African management in the 21st century: under the effect of globalisation, towards a “mixed” African management model?).

KAMDEM, E. et MUTABAZI, E. (2017). Le management en Afrique : entre universalité et contingence, Paris, L’Harmattan, 318 p. (Management in Africa: between universality and contingency).

MINIALAI C., MABROUKI, M-N., MONNOYER, M-C. et BOUTARY M. (2019). Les institutions des pays émergents, soutien ou handicap à l’internationalisation des PME ? Une entreprise marocaine en Afrique, Revue Africaine de Management vol.4 (2), pp. 197-210. (Institutions in emerging countries, support or handicap for the internationalisation of SMEs? A Moroccan company in Africa).

Feedback from panel members

I was most interested in the extensive empirical work carried out, which underlines the high-context approach to the research (Professor Mourey, examination panel member).
This thesis represents a valuable DBA journey and collaboration between academia and the area of business in which Mr. Soumare works (Professor Mayrhofer, thesis supervisor).