‘Our ancestors taught us the business know-how in Africa’: Continuity and Innovation in Ismaili Transnational Business Culture

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Abstract

Through a comparison between transnational business practices of Ismaili Muslim settled in the British and Portuguese colonial territories of East Africa and in contemporary Angola, we aim to discuss the impact of colonial experiences in the reconfiguration of postcolonial migrant entrepreneurial cultures. Articulating several guiding empirical questions, we will attempt to show that the continuing centrality in the (politico-economic, relational, and cultural) logic of the particular nation-state in which Ismaili business activities are embedded, the notion of a disadvantageous network closure, concomitant with the importance of face-to-face contacts, the mutual trust and understanding sustained through personal relations, and the tendency for national loyalty to prevail over religious belonging (whenever any potential conflict between the two exists) constitute crucial dimensions of an accumulated tacit knowledge (functional, behavioural, identitarian) which is significant in the analysis of the Ismaili competitive advantage in different colonial and postcolonial African contexts.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)1-16
Number of pages16
JournalCahiers de l’Urmis
Volume17
Publication statusPublished - 2017

Keywords

  • Ismaili transnationalism
  • Entrepreneurship
  • Colonial and contemporary Africa

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