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Entrepreneurial Activities In A Developing Country: An Institutional Theory Perspective

Emiel L. Eijdenberg, Neil A. Thompson, Karen Verduijn, Caroline Essers

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PurposeEntrepreneurship research in the context of developing countries has typically investigated the ways in which culture, politics or economic institutions prohibit or enable entrepreneurial activities using macro-level surveys and deductive designs. In contrast, the purpose of this paper is to take a micro-institutional perspective to study these three institutions influencing entrepreneurial activities in such a context.Design/methodology/approachThe analysis is based on inductive, qualitative field data from a challenging institutional environment, Tanzania. This includes two focus groups, one with experts and one with entrepreneurs; and 24 individual interviews with entrepreneurs.FindingsEntrepreneurial activities in Tanzania are not constrained only by bureaucracy and arbitrary enforcement, access to capital, competition and consumer spending, but also by language barriers, negative media portrayals and gender disparity. In their favour, recent trade policy, opening up of borders and changing gender relations, has led to more opportunities, but just as important are traditional festivals, marital gift-giving and familial support. Entrepreneurs respond to institutional constraints in many creative ways, including undertaking entrepreneurial strategies, developing inner strength, joining associations, giving back to communities and skilfully managing relations with authorities.Originality/valueThe fine-grained discussion of the findings of this study specifically contributes to theory by illustrating the constraining and enabling role of under-represented institutions, such as festivals and marriages, as well as entrepreneurial creative responses that define everyday entrepreneurial life in a developing country.