There may be much more than a lack of finance, skills or demand that is preventing African microentrepreneurs from expanding. Family networks are strong, and they can on the one hand support the newly created enterprise with funds and labour, but on the other hand drain the profits of an established enterprise with requests for financial help and jobs for relatives. Cultural beliefs can also be a deterrent to entrepreneurship: in many cultures success in business is put down to the wielding of malign supernatural powers, and the entrepreneur can be isolated rather than admired in his or her community. This article describes research carried out in Africa revealing some unexpected cultural attitudes affecting business. It concludes that such attitudes take a long time to change, and that blue-print, minimalist solutions to enterprise development, dealing with one of a number of obstacles in the path of the growth of small enterprise, may have limited success.
The article illustrates the utility of subsector analysis with reference to the case of informal sector tailors and dressmakers in Kenya. Particular attention is given to the training needs of tailors and dressmakers, who are classified into stars and laggards, the difficulties they experience in running their businesses and some policy implications of this methodology. It is argued that the subsector approach avoids the tendency to see the informal sector as though it were an undifferentiated mass of microenterprises, by focusing on the movement of a product or service through various stages and the linkages and participants at each stage. This is likely to lead to a detailed understanding of the opportunities and constraints incumbent on a given sub-sector and thereby provide a framework for appropriate policy interventions.