Towards Successful Learning within North-South Joint Ventures Operating in Sub-Saharan Africa: An Exploratory Study

By Chrysostome, Elie Virgile; Su, Zhan | Journal of Comparative International Management, June 2002 | Go to article overview

Towards Successful Learning within North-South Joint Ventures Operating in Sub-Saharan Africa: An Exploratory Study


Chrysostome, Elie Virgile, Su, Zhan, Journal of Comparative International Management


North-South joint ventures are initiated more and more nowadays. One justification for their creation is the acquisition of new know-how, with the aim of developing new competencies that favour a better competitiveness. Nevertheless, strategic learning in a North-South joint venture context still remains a poorly known area. The present research proposes examining the learning practices used by these joint ventures to see if they develop strategic competencies. The results of the research show that these practices are characteristic of vicarious learning and that new developed competencies are not profoundly strategic. The research therefore proposes a much more profound learning model that ultimately leads to the development of strategic competencies.

INTRODUCTION

An international joint venture is a legal entity created and managed jointly by two or more legally distinct organizations, among which at least one has its head office located outside the country where the joint venture operates. During the last 10 years, this special type of organization has grown in popularity and has become one of the major tools in internationalization of companies (Su, 1999). Learning constitutes one of the main motivations that justifies the creation of a joint venture (Kogut, 1988). Indeed, joint ventures facilitate the acquisition of new knowledge, and from this point of view constitute favourable frameworks for developing strategic competencies. However, joint ventures do not constitute an infallible solution for acquiring knowledge; if, in certain cases, learning know-how effectively and successfully takes place, in numerous other cases the hoped-for learning cannot take place, so joint ventures can be taken over by streams of all kinds of conflicts of power, cultures or interests (Lewis, 1990; Beamish, 1988). This observation about joint ventures accords with the observation made by some researchers -- Lorange and Roos (1991) and Lewis (1990), among others -- who think that joint ventures fail much more than they succeed. Learning in North-South joint ventures represents an even more difficult exercise, because of the institutional, cultural and geographic distances that separate the parent companies. Nevertheless, the works interested in this question are not numerous (Ingham, 1994; Dodgson, 1993).

The objective of this research is to contribute to a better understanding of this phenomenon. It proposes examining the learning practices used in North South joint ventures by studying multiple case-studies, and in light of the observed results, building a learning model that favours actual development of strategic competencies within North-South joint ventures. This research comprises four parts: the first part presents a theoretical framework of strategic learning in international joint ventures; the second and third parts are an analysis and a discussion of the results observed; the last part recommends a learning model that favours development of strategic competencies within North-South joint ventures.

CONTEXT OF NORTH-SOUTH JOINT VENTURES IN SUB-SAHARAN AFRICA

A North-South joint venture is a joint venture in which at least one parent company is from a developing country and at least one parent company is from a developed country. The type of North-South joint venture that is more and more present in Sub-Saharan Africa is based on private capital. This results mostly from the failure of North-South partnerships of state companies undertaken in African countries (Chitou, 1991) shortly after their independence. The various pressures exercised in favour of privatization by the international institutions involved in the development of African countries (World Bank and IMF) have forced these countries to promote private companies. It is in this type of context that more and more North-South private joint ventures in Sub-Saharan Africa presently operate. Some of these North-South private joint ventures result from the privatization of state companies, or simply from the privatization of the state's interest in companies that were previously companies of mixed economy (Dz aka and Milandou, 1995; Mayoukou, 1995). …

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