Trust and West African Exporting SME Networks

Kingsley Obi Omeihe*, Ibiyemi Omeihe, Veronica Gustafsson, Isaac Oduro Amoako

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to conferenceUnpublished paperpeer-review


This paper makes a case for the examination of trust based on the notion that trust differs across contexts. This is important as a study of this nature provides a basis for uncovering new aspects of trust and SME networks. To date most of the literature on trust and network relationships reveal a paucity of studies about West African traders. This paper attempts to address this gap by investigate the role of trust in West African SME networks.

This paper draws on an interpretivist approach in response to calls for more qualitative research on entrepreneurship. The empirical component is focused on multiple case studies of 42 SME owner/managers drawn through a purposive sampling. The choice of the selected respondents was aimed at comparing perceptions and experiences as it relates to their particular environment. Data was collected through semi-structured interviews held at cross border markets. Thematic analysis was used in analysing, identifying and reporting patterns within data. This was essential as it ensured the interpretation of various aspects of the data in rich detail. Lastly, the consideration for limiting bias was minimised through reflexivity of being on guard about the certain preconceptions and assumptions introduce into the study. This involved daily introspections, note keeping, observing market relationships and informal discussions.

Central to this paper, is its valuable contribution which highlights the importance of trust in the activities of West African SME networks. In this light, networks were found to be a source of complementary resources for SMEs as they were developed based on ties to family/kinship, religion, ethnicity and trade associations. Thus, SME owner/managers were found to gain a plethora of benefits such as access to credit, market information, and dispute resolution. In this vein, this paper provides a sophisticated contextual approach to uncovering trust and supports the growing importance of African research on SME networks.

Practical Implications
The practical implication of this paper demonstrates that SMEs were willing to draw on trust-based network relationships in their exporting activities, especially as it relates to contexts characterised by weak and inefficient formal institutions. The paper also indicates that SMEs operating within developing market contexts would benefit from the use of networks in bridging their psychic distance. Hence, the role of trust is found to have a great influence in enhancing the activities of West African SMEs.

Social Implications
This paper provides more first-hand policy implications. The case study of West African SMEs highlights the importance of trust and network relationships especially in contexts where the local actors may not be able to depend on formal legal institutions. In this vein, future policy formulations should acknowledge that SMEs play an important role in West African development. Hence, these benefits must be properly harnessed. Further, a major empirical finding revealed that all the respondents interviewed for this study expressed concerns about West African formal institutions. Thus, it becomes expedient that policy formulations must address the inefficiencies across formal institutions.

Originality/Value of a paper
From our viewpoint, the goal of this paper is to expose the notion that very little is known about trust and SME networks from a West African perspective. With this in mind, gaining rich and well-grounded insights into this research phenomenon assumes paramount significance. In particular, the unique and distinct applicability of this study lies in its contextual dimension. Thus, in exploring new frontiers and entrepreneurial places, this paper presents a fundamental challenge to prevalent perspectives on trust and SME networks which have been centered on a western modelapproach.
Original languageEnglish
Publication statusPublished - 14 Nov 2019
EventCentre for African Research on Enterprise and Economic Development 4th Annual Conference - University West of Scotland
Duration: 29 Aug 201930 Aug 2019
Conference number: 4th


ConferenceCentre for African Research on Enterprise and Economic Development 4th Annual Conference
Abbreviated titleCAREED 2019
Internet address


  • trust
  • trade networks
  • West Africa


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