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Successful regional internationalization in Africa

Oumar Soumaré

Deputy General Manager of KEITA Group, Mali

Doctor DBA, Business Science Institute

(DBA thesis supervised by Pr. Mayrhofer)



How to develop a company internationally in a crisis environment? How to overcome the obstacles? What are the success factors? We provide some answers through research conducted with Malian agro-industrial companies whose objective is to develop in the countries of the regional customs union UEOMA.

Impacts of the research

Mali has been facing a serious security crisis since 2012, a source of political and economic instability that is not conducive to business development in the local market. In order to internationalize, we propose to managers:

The creation of a regional logistics network that ensures the transportation of finished products on the outbound journey and raw materials on the return journey (Mali does not have direct access to the sea),

The use of local raw materials in the elaboration of products,

The implementation of an integrated commercial network up to the depots on 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 the public order.

In order to carry out this strategy, and in the face of a failing institutional environment (corruption, fraudulent certificates, smuggling), we recommend networking among the leaders of Malian companies in order to gain influence with the various stakeholders.

On the theoretical level, our research contributes to enrich the Uppsala model in a multidimensional crisis context. Our results show that the majority of exports come from informal exports, and that internationalization is more a default choice than a real strategic intention. These results are consistent with the work of Bah et al. (2020), who showed that Senegalese firms are often traditional, historically and strongly anchored in their local market.

Foundations of the research

We have mobilized the Uppsala model, which describes the internationalization process of firms in relation to the management of uncertainty and the evolution of the business environment (Vahlne and Johanson 1977). This model has been the subject of successive versions (2009, 2013, 2017, 2020). The main idea of this model is that companies adopt a processual approach to internationalize their activities, and that the network form is a way to manage the uncertainty associated with the psychic distance between the home and host countries.


We conducted an in-depth case study of an agribusiness company, based on 25 non-directive interviews and the administration of a closed questionnaire. We completed this study by collecting secondary data on three other agribusinesses and on the Malian economic environment. Data processing was carried out using a content analysis via the Sphinx platform.

Our results support the Malian proverb that "you don't drop your fish in your hand to try to catch the one under your feet". Clearly, as the Uppsala model states, the success of an internationalization strategy depends on a successful local anchoring.

The opinion of the professors

I was most interested in the extensive empirical work carried out, which underlines the high-context approach to the research (Prof. Mourey, jury member).

Prof. Mayrhofer underlines that this thesis represents a beautiful journey marking a rich collaboration between academia and the professional world from which Mr. Soumare comes (Prof. Mayrhofer, thesis director).

To go further...

CROCE, F. (2018). The search for African management in the 21st century: under the effect of globalization, towards a "mixed" African management? Revue Africaine de Management, Vol.3 (1), pp. 1-12.

KAMDEM, E. and MUTABAZI, E. (2017). Le management en Afrique : entre universalité et contingence, Paris, L'Harmattan, 318 p.

MINIALAI C., MABROUKI, M-N., MONNOYER, M-C. and BOUTARY M. (2019). Institutions in emerging countries, support or handicap to the internationalization of SMEs? A Moroccan company in Africa, Revue Africaine de Management vol.4 (2), pp. 197-210.

Article translated from French with


See also...

Presentation of the article in video, by Oumar Soumaré


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