Enabling technological learning among light engineering SMEs in Zimbabwe through networking

Chipika, Stephen and Wilson, Gordon (2006). Enabling technological learning among light engineering SMEs in Zimbabwe through networking. Technovation, 26(8) pp. 969–979.

DOI: https://doi.org/10.1016/j.technovation.2005.09.014

Abstract

The contribution of networks to small and medium enterprise (SME) development is analysed to a very limited extent in a Sub-Saharan African context, despite the general claim that SMEs are important for both national economic development and poverty alleviation. The implication is that networks play a relatively minor role in this context, unlike their perceived significance for SMEs in more developed countries. An analysis of networks and technological learning among four light engineering SMEs in Zimbabwe, however, reveals a clear positive association between the two, while also showing that networks are not necessarily a magic bullet. Capacity, including motivation to learn, and entrepreneurship qualities are important determinants of a firm's ability to make use of networks. Also, some networks might actually be disabling in terms of technological learning, while others will be more or less important during the development trajectory of a firm. The study has important implications for the role of enterprise support organisations that seek to promote the development of SMEs in Zimbabwe, and elsewhere in Sub-Saharan Africa.

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