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The growth of multinational telecommunication enterprises in Africa: Institutions, markets and technological change (REF: SF18/BAM/WHALLEY2)

Project Description

Foreign direct investment (FDI) reflects a host of interacting and dynamic factors. Multinational enterprises (MNE) are encouraged to enter a foreign market because of its size or endowment of natural resources, or efficiency reasons. They are also able to compete in the market, with scale economies as well as R&D (innovation) playing a key role. As they enter foreign markets, the institutions within the country play an important role, in ensuring that they are treated equitably with local companies and that the rule of law occurs.

The advent of mobile telecommunication technologies – 2G, 3G etc. - has transformed the telecommunications industry and the general business environment in Africa. The number of mobile connections soon outgrew those of fixed-line communications, bringing the benefits of communications to unprecedented numbers across the continent. There are now more than 500 million mobile connections across Africa. As the number of connections has grown, trade and investments between Africa and other regions, as well as among African countries have also increased. Moreover, the increasing FDI in the region, facilitated by the mobile connections, has played a key role in introducing services and infrastructure to national markets that were previously often closed to foreign investment. Notwithstanding the importance of the mobile telecommunication technologies to unlocking the potential of the business environment and in strengthening institutions in Africa, research in this area is limited.

This PhD project will focus on the growth of multinational telecommunication enterprises within Africa. In doing so, it will investigate the complex and dynamic interaction between the institutions that shape the ‘rules of the game’ as well as the barriers to entry that exist within and between countries and the strategies that mobile operators adopt. Of particular interest is the development of (local) institutions – sector regulation, competition authorities, anti-corruption bodies etc. – that reassure foreign investors, and how these have changed over time as FDI in general and in key sectors like telecommunications and electricity has grown.

A mixed methodological approach will be adopted, mapping the institutional characteristics that encourage and shape foreign investment and critically evaluating the strategies that firms have adopted to expand across the continent. Case studies of operators such as Milicom International, Vodafone / Vodacom and MTN will be undertaken, critically evaluated through reference to theories drawn from the international business literature.

Eligibility and How to Apply:
Please note eligibility requirement:
• Academic excellence of the proposed student i.e. 2:1 (or equivalent GPA from non-UK universities [preference for 1st class honours]); or a Masters (preference for Merit or above); or APEL evidence of substantial practitioner achievement.
• Appropriate IELTS score, if required.

For further details of how to apply, entry requirements and the application form, see

Please note: Applications that do not include a research proposal of approximately 1,000 words (not a copy of the advert), or that do not include the advert reference (e.g. SF18/…) will not be considered.

Northumbria University takes pride in, and values, the quality and diversity of our staff. We welcome applications from all members of the community. The University holds an Athena SWAN Bronze award in recognition of our commitment to improving employment practices for the advancement of gender equality and is a member of the Euraxess network, which delivers information and support to professional researchers.

Funding Notes

Please note this is a self-funded project and does not include fees


Recent publications by supervisors relevant to this project

• Curwen, P. and J. Whalley (2014) Mobile Telecommunications Networks: Restructuring in Response to the New Global Economy, Edward Elgar, Chichester, UK
• Asimakopoulos, G. and J. Whalley (2017) Financial performance of European mobile telecommunication companies, Technological Forecasting & Social Change, Vol.123, October, pages 57-67
• Curwen, P. and J. Whalley (2015) Can new entry provide a route for increased competition in mobile communications? A European perspective, info, Vol.17 (3), pages 16-37
• Nyuur, R. B., Ofori, D. F. and Y. A. Debrah (2016) The impact of FDI inflow on domestic firms’ uptake of CSR activities: the moderating effects of host institutions, Thunderbird International Business Review, Vol. 58(2), 147–159.
• Adams, K., Nyuur, R. B., Ellis, F. and Y. A. Debrah (2016). South African MNCs’ HRM systems and practices at the subsidiary level: insights from subsidiaries in Ghana, Journal of International Management, Vol. 23 (2), 180-193.
• Nyuur, R. and Y.A Debrah (2014) Predicting Foreign Firms’ Expansion and Divestment Intentions in Host Countries: Insights from Ghana, Thunderbird International Business Review, Vol. 56(5), 407–419.
• Nyuur, R. B., Osabutey, E. and Y. A. Debrah (2014) Doing Business in Africa. In Nwankwo, S. and Ibeh, K. (ed.) The Routledge Companion to Business in Africa. Abingdon, Oxfordshire: Routledge.

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