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2023 AGCAE Research Themes

​Scroll down to view the 2023 Allan Gray Centre for Africa Entrepreneurship (AGCAE) research themes.


There is a consensus among the entrepreneurship circle that African entrepreneurship could thrive if stakeholders innovated on the quadruple issues of support, talent, policy and funding. We study these issues and possibilities using entrepreneurial ecosystem analytical lenses, which we see as a distinct research theme. We have 2 PhD and 2 Masters comprehensive Scholarships for researchers wishing to contribute to our mission, vision and strategic priorities from the year 2024.

 Theme 1: Support

There is short-termism across incubators and accelerators in terms of the intervention periods and support they typically provide. Among other issues, this has led to a saturation of African incubators and accelerators, causing start-up fatigue but only few high-impact ventures. More experimentation, purpose and strategic collaborative partnerships can help. To achieve high impact from new ventures, it will be important to make multi-lateral actors' interventions strategic not episodic. Thus, we need to explore levers of long-term support and how to strengthen institutional capacity among incubators and accelerators to take a long-term approach. What are the alternative collaboration approaches that successfully connect ecosystem support while remaining sensitive to African dynamics? What is uniquely African about enterprise support in Africa? In localizing support to African entrepreneurs, how do ecosystem players set up healthy balances between the state, private sector and philanthropic efforts? Among many other relevant exploratory questions, this a sample of research questions that could contribute original scholarship through the Centre.

Theme 2: Talent

Knowledge at the intersection of talent and entrepreneurial ecosystem dynamics in entrepreneurship is scarce and needs more attention, especially in Africa. Much of what informs practitioner and policy understanding of how to grow talent in entrepreneurship is borrowed from insights generated outside the complexity of African ecosystem dynamics. An intellectual project centred around the exploration of the following research topics can help:

  •  learning from successful practices, approaches and principles to entrepreneurial mindset development among talent.
  • understanding the science and art of matching founders to visionary leadership that successfully helps founders ideate, recognize opportunities and seek for help while at university.
  • systematic analysis of environmental enablers and barriers to successful idea, team and product/service validation.
  • needs analysis for late-stage talent support gaps across Africa and how to gear new ventures for market validation, team validation and business formalization.
  • qualitative and quantitative analysis of present and futuristic support gaps across entrepreneur journeys as an economic development case for creative enabling funds of funds and hubs of hubs to address those gaps.

Theme 3: Policy

There is a perceived diminishing of government equity that risk divorcing systems of innovation behind entrepreneurship away from the public sector in ways that merely bandages but not address complex stakeholder issues, especially where the state has previously played an important institutional arbitrage function. At the same time, African regions often lack institutional capital to successfully broker and negotiate state and market forces. The Centre will grapple with innovative ways of reimagining the relations between the first (state), second (private) and third (social) sectors in regenerative ways that can scale up, deep and out productive entrepreneurship. Related to this theme is how research and related social experiments can help promote and mainstream entrepreneurship policy that enables and incentivizes local entrepreneurs to participate and win in their respective economies and international markets

Theme 4: Funding

Entrepreneurship in Africa is arguably characterized by a funding architecture that has not championed systems change needed to inspire the diversity of ventures and to realize the youth demographic dividend. What is needed is a combination of knowledge and social experiment projects to help reimagine financial solutions to local ventures either headquartered or co-founded in Africa. What will it take to inspire local funders to be patient and supportive of indigenous entrepreneurs? How can the funding community reimagine the notion of assets needed as collateral in African localities characterized by an assetless indigenous youth? How do we set up institutional arrangements and governance innovations needed to make funds of funds a reality in Africa? Which type of innovative finance instrument(s), and for which regional contexts, are needed across the varied entrepreneurial ecosystems in Africa?

Theme 5: Entrepreneurial Ecosystem Analytics

Original research on relevant entrepreneurial ecosystem conditions, data science and engineering, policy process design, diagnostics and measurements.