Entrepreneurship-led Sustainable Development in Africa

Cultivating home-grown solutions driven by locally embedded entrepreneurs

We are dedicated to advance understanding regarding how entrepreneurship can effectively tackle societal challenges and foster sustainable development, both within Africa and on a global scale. Through our core projects (outlined below), we develop a data-and-dialogue driven entrepreneurial ecosystem approach to better achieve sustainable development.

The African continent, with its burgeoning and youthful population, presents abundant entrepreneurial opportunities, particularly amidst the anticipated expansion of African consumer markets. However, unlocking this potential hinges on well-functioning entrepreneurial ecosystems—a set of interdependent actors and factors that are governed in such a way that they enable productive entrepreneurship.

Despite Africa’s abundant natural resources and vast arable land, the African continent has the lowest levels of wellbeing (including the lowest incomes and the highest unemployment rates) and faces huge societal challenges. Root causes can be found in institutional weaknesses, driving unproductive or even destructive entrepreneurship, trapping societies in vicious cycles.

Our research delves into the mechanisms underlying development traps, but also virtuous cycles of entrepreneurship and development. The emphasis of the initiative is on cultivating home-grown solutions driven by locally embedded entrepreneurs, that contributes to sustainable development in Africa and across the globe.

With data and dialogue we co-create knowledge on improving the conditions for entrepreneurship to achieve sustainable development


  • African Entrepreneurial Ecosystem Index

    We compile data on key elements of entrepreneurial ecosystems in Africa — covering institutions, culture, talent, finance, and physical infrastructure — to create a comprehensive data infrastructure. Key partners in this project include the Innovation for Policy Foundation (I4Policy) and Stellenbosch University.

  • Productive Entrepreneurship in Africa 

    With this project, we source data on entrepreneurship in Africa and integrate this in harmonized datasets. In this way, we are building a data infrastructure on entrepreneurship in Africa. Key partners in this project are Systemic Innovation, the World Bank, and the Global Entrepreneurship Monitor. 

  • National and regional entrepreneurship policies

    Based on data and academic insights into entrepreneurial ecosystems and sustainable development, we diagnose entrepreneurial ecosystems, develop stakeholder engagement, and analyze policies for developing entrepreneurial ecosystems. Here we analyze bottom-up and top-down processes in entrepreneurial ecosystem development. Key partners in this project are the Innovation for Policy Foundation (I4Policy) and Motse Collective Impact. 

Future topics

In addition, the research team is exploring new topics such as the role of institutions and finance in enabling productive entrepreneurship, impact investing and market creation, universities and vocational education and training (VET) institutes as catalysts of entrepreneurial ecosystem development, and the role skilled migration in entrepreneurship. We are also developing community engaged learning and education for professionals.

Meet our team:

Project leader


This project is conducted with a group of Utrecht University scholars and students, and also involves scholars and students from Stellenbosch University (South Africa), University of Johannesburg (South Africa), Makerere University (Uganda), University of Nairobi (Kenya). We also collaborate with other public and private stakeholders in entrepreneurship-led sustainable development in Africa.