An Afrocentric analysis of social entrepreneurship as a tool for development in Johannesburg, South Africa

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University of Zululand
This thesis examines the idea of social entrepreneurship (SE) from an Afrocentric and postdevelopment perspective. The thesis argues that the idea of SE is often examined from a Eurocentric perspective which tends to ignore the African context in which development takes place thereby failing to yield positive results for the African societies that are intended to be the beneficiaries of SE and its development outcomes. In South Africa, SE is predominantly understood from a business management point of view while epistemically drawing from German ideas of Social Democracy—a development that misses the contextual-epistemic realities of its location. This study takes an Afrocentric and post-development approach to examine bot the epistemic and contextual relevance of social entrepreneurship in South Africa. To contribute to knowledge, the study appraises the relevance and value of SE’s social democratic epistemology to South Africa. Such an appraisal is undertaken from the view that traditionally, southern African society has been governed by the Afrocentric value of Ubuntu. Thus, posing the question of whether social democracy can be helpful to South African communities, and what adaptations, if any, would be required for this. Moreover, the study explores whether the practice (beyond theory) of social entrepreneurship is helpful from an Afrocentric viewpoint, as some ideas may be adaptable theoretically, but fail empirically. Finally, the study found that it is more important to fashion the progress of South African societies along the lines of flourishing as opposed to developing. This is so as development is value-laden and tied to modernity, whose basic epistemology and axiology are not always reconcilable with local epistemologies. On the other hand, flourishing allows societies to define their unique trajectories of progress such as ubumbano/letsema – a concept embracing collective progress instead of individual wealth, amongst other important ideas. The findings also show that the motivations for SE vary but have a common understanding of human needs which affirm beneficiaries’ dignity and humanness. Further, the findings reveal that social enterprises want to build ecologies of innovation and change, and be empathetic to people’s needs, and they have reservations with most government-led solutions as those tend to be exclusive, further creating new problems when trying to solve old ones.