A Case Study of Social Enterprise Adoption of Sustainable Business Model Innovations
: Shining a light on Sub Saharan Africa’s energy sector at the BoP

Student thesis: Doctoral Thesis


Only 25% of rural Sub Saharan Africans have access to electricity despite progress towards the universal target, established under Sustainable Development Goal (SDG) 7. Off-grid solutions, cheaper than grid-extensions, have advanced tremendously, but some businesses choose to serve wealthier people in society, excluding people living at the Base of the economic Pyramid (BoP), in remote rural areas. Social enterprises, lauded for their ability to create social and economic value, are urged to help reach SDG7. Adoption of sustainable business model innovations (SBMI) is considered critical for attainment of SDG7, but there has been little research into use of SBMI by social enterprises working to alleviate energy poverty in Sub Saharan Africa (SSA). Adopting a longitudinal qualitative case study approach, this research investigates a social enterprise’s SBMIs to provide access to renewable energy to people at the BoP in rural Zambia. The study
contributes to theory and practice, demonstrating how social enterprises can maintain a focus upon provision of social value, while avoiding mission drift that is inherent in seeking to concurrently create economic value through revenue generation. Use of multiple sources of revenue and adoption of a variety of innovative routes to market has allowed the social enterprise to maintain its social-value driven mission. A number of challenges are identified, including the ecosystems in which social enterprises operate, their need to carefully navigate them, and the importance of differentiating between them. In conclusion, this research makes three incremental contributions, advancing theoretical understanding, as well as practical knowledge. It also provides empirical evidence from SSA which continues to be under reported in the business and management, social enterprise and BoP literature. The thesis concludes with recommendations for future research avenues to help ensure that those at the BoP are not left underserved.
Date of Award8 Feb 2023
Original languageEnglish
SupervisorMorven McEachern (Main Supervisor) & Kweku Adams (Co-Supervisor)

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