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Promoting Sustainability in Africa’s Small Industries: An Exploratory Study of Intermediary Performance Drivers



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Oguntoye, Olamide 


Many advanced countries have increasingly sought to promote sustainability in the small-scale industries of developing countries. Available evidence however, suggests sustainability promotion programmes may be yielding only limited success. In this study, performance drivers of the intermediaries delivering the programmes is explored.

Research methodology adopts a multiple case-study of National Cleaner Production Centres (NCPCs) across four countries in Africa. Data collection involved semi-structured expert interviews with 51 experts across all four countries. This was combined with 29 weeks of field visits between the countries. Extensive desk research on the NCPCs and their national contexts was also performed to provide additional relevant data. The study applies the inductive grounded-theory approach in analysing data and identifying performance drivers.

Key findings are (1) that there are eighteen determinants of intermediary performance ten of which may be considered key, (2) that performance determinants as construed by intermediaries are distinct from factors traditionally known to drive sustainability among small industries, (3) that a relationship may exist between the national context of the intermediary and its performance, (4) that there may be an opportunity to tailor existing frameworks on organizational performance to better suit intermediaries and (5) that a more critical approach to intermediary performance among key stakeholders may help unlock greater impact of sustainability programmes.

Theoretical contributions are (1) creation of an expanded view of factors known to drive sustainability among small industries (2) a set of hypotheses between intermediary performance and international environmental programme impact, national contexts, public organizational performance frameworks, and sustainability adoption in small industries and (3) the development of a new conceptual framework to guide further study and dialogue on intermediary performance.

Novelty of this study spans four points: (1) Previous studies on small industries and sustainability have focused mainly on the small industries, i.e. the recipient of sustainability support programmes. This is one of the first to focus on the intermediary. (2) Previous studies have focused mainly on developed countries such as the UK. This is one of the first to address the developing country context. (3) Previous studies on sustainability promotion in small industries have adopted a programme-based framework. This is one of the first to adopt an organizational performance based framework. (4) No previous studies known to the researcher have explored the possibility for synergies between intermediaries and the emerging community of social enterprises in developing countries within the context of sustainability support programme delivery

The key limitation of this study lies in the fact that it seeks to address the question on intermediary performance using data almost exclusively from the intermediaries. This limitation provides an opportunity to conduct further research on the topic using data from a wider array of stakeholders. Methodological limitations such as the use of a qualitative approach, the use of the case study method, and the use of a grounded theory technique are acknowledged. However, these limitations are considered preferable to those of the alternatives. Standard reliability measures including triangulation and member-checking have been adopted to mitigate methodological limitations.

Future research may explore the performance determinants of the intermediary from the lenses of a broader selection of stakeholders including donors, and the recipient small industries. This could help improve the reliability of current findings. The role and process of organizational learning in intermediaries; and the relationship between organizational learning and performance, are additional research areas that could augment the contribution of the current study. Insights from such research may help unlock step improvements in the future design and delivery of sustainability programmes to small industries in developing countries.





Evans, Steve


Sustainable Industrial Development, African Small Industries, Support Intermediaries


Doctor of Philosophy (PhD)

Awarding Institution

University of Cambridge