Corporate Social Performance in the Age of Irresponsibility—Cross National Perspective,
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RESPONSIBILITY IN AFRICA
Context, Paradoxes, Stakeholder Orientations,
Contestations and Reﬂ ections
Thomas Kimeli Cheruiyot and Patrick Onsando
Organization studies on Corporate Social Responsibility (CSR) in Africa thus far,
has concerned itself with among others; concepts, issues and processes (Hindson
& Ndhlovu, 2011; Muthuri, 2013), cultural aspects (White, 2008), contextual and
antecedents of CSR awareness and advancement (GTZ, 2009), CSR and corpo-
rate human rights (Cheruiyot & Maru, 2014). That debate on CSR has recently
raised lot of interest in academic circles (Cheruiyot & Maru, 2012; Lozano &
Prandi, 2005; Okoye, 2012; Wettstein, 2012) is not without basis. Whilst CSR is
increasingly regulated in Western and developed countries in general, this is not
so for most developing countries (Buhmann, 2006), particularly in Africa.
Africa is the second largest continent with a population of close to 1 billion
people. Economies in Africa, and especially Sub-Saharan Africa, have been grow-
ing more rapidly in recent years than at any time in modern history, for instance
90 • THOMAS KIMELI CHERUIYOT & PATRICK ONSANDO
between 2001 and 2008, African economies grew at an increasing rate, averaging
over 6% for the period and in 2010 the average economic growth rate across the
continent overtook both Brazil and India. However, eighty percent of Africans
still earn US$2 a day or less. However, economies reliant on the export of low
value-added basic goods are subject to international market ﬂ uctuations and weak
terms of trade (Forstater, Zadek, Guang, Yu, Hong, & George, 2010). More sig-
niﬁ cantly, challenges to development in Africa remain considerable, as shown
by the continent’s uneven performance as measured against the UN Millennium
Development Goals. These are broad people-centered objectives to be achieved
by 2015 but seems unlikely so. The eight goals are; eradicate extreme poverty
and hunger, achieve universal primary education, promote gender equality and
empower women, reduce child mortality, improve maternal health, combat HIV/
Aids, malaria and other diseases and ensure environmental sustainability and de-
velop a global partnership for development.
CSR in Africa has also recently gained heightened interest generally du e to
high levels of poverty and inequalities, particularly among those countries in
which sustainable development challenges appear most intractable (Cheruiyot &
Maru, 2012; Kivuitu, Yambayamba, & Fox, 2005). In such countries, CSR has
gained resonance among local communities and the general public.
CSR is gaining currency among organizations in poor countries (Welford,
2002), and increasingly in African enterprises and contexts (Cheruiyot & Maru,
2012), partially because of social legislation that is apparently less comprehensive
and poorly enforceable. More knowledge on CSR is critical, and urgent owing to
Africa’s unique situations. As such, critical developments in CSR could enable
enterprises and other parties, to exercise due diligence in their operations and
processes, and formulate policy to ameliorate any adverse social eﬀ ects.
CSR is an issue that is increasingly capturing the interest and imagination of
people in the business world. However, despite all of the attention that has been
given to this issue, there is still much confusion and many misperceptions sur-
round it (Waldman, Kenett, & Zilberg, 2010). In fact, most CSR studies focus on
social and environmental initiatives, ignoring the wider and wholesome, interde-
pendence of business and society.
CSR, therefore, is both critical and controversial (Werther, Jr. & Chandler,
2010). Critical because of the magnitude of expectations for business in Africa
and controversial because those who have thought deeply about why businesses
exist or what purpose they have within society do not agree on the answers. CSR
in Africa is critical because diﬀ erent societies express the relationship between
business and society in unique ways. Unique expectations arise from many fac-
tors, with wealthy societies having greater resources and, perhaps, more demand-
ing expectations that emerge from the greater options wealth brings. In Africa,
as in other less developed societies, the general social welfare is focused on the
necessities of life, such as among others; food, shelter, education, health, security
Corporate Social Responsibility in Africa • 91
and jobs. Governmental or voluntary CSR initiatives or restrictions add costs that
such societies could ill aﬀ ord.
Furthermore, ‘natural resource curse’ or the ‘paradox of plenty’ is identiﬁ ed as
a common phenomenon in Africa than elsewhere in the world. This is because,
African countries rich in natural resources (e.g., Democratic Republic of Congo,
South Sudan, Nigeria, Angola) have been unable to use that wealth to boost their
economies. On the contrary, the rich resource heritage has turned out to be the
source of civil or harmed conﬂ ict, insecurity, underdevelopment and exploitation.
In spite of the aforementioned, CSR in Africa is still a largely misunderstood,
misused and abused concept. This is partly due to its diverse conceptualization
and operationalization. CSR is also a largely contested concept, either theoreti-
cally or practically with diverse implementations across regions of the world. In
Africa, being the second fastest growing region in the world (World Bank), with
foreign investment inﬂ ows increasing and growing middle class, Africa’s CSR
agenda is under focus. As a manifestation of its challenges, the level of economic
and social development partly inﬂ uences the nature and form of CSR in particular
African regions and countries.
In this chapter, we examine various CSR deﬁ nitions and how CSR is opera-
tionalized generally and provide a contextual understanding of CSR in Africa.
The application of CSR in African cultural and business settings is also examined.
CORPORATE SOCIAL RESPONSIBILITY: MISUNDERSTOOD,
ABUSED AND MISUSED CONCEPT?
We argue that CSR in Africa is largely misunderstood, misused and abused con-
cept both in practical and theoretically realms. Critical question is; why is CSR
misunderstood, misused and abused?
First it is misunderstood, partly due to its diverse conceptualization and op-
erationalization. Furthermore, a plethora of CSR synonyms such as corporate
responsibility, corporate accountability, corporate ethics, corporate citizenship,
sustainability, stewardship, triple bottom line, corporate governance, social and
environmental obligations, corporate social investment and responsible business
are bandied around and used interchangeable, often incorrectly, therefore exacer-
bating the confusion surrounding it. Its ﬂ exibility and broad spectrum has led to
its operational and conceptual lacuna, although partly increasing its prominence
in academic circles.
Moreover, CSR is a fuzzy concept, often with unclear boundaries and debat-
able legitimacy. Every practitioner and scholar alike perceives CSR diﬀ erently,
and individually think they know what CSR is, or ought to be. However, the real-
ity is that most of what is perceived to be CSR in Africa is actually not. Leading to
serious abuse of CSR. For instance, most CSR initiatives in Africa are cash, food
or other material donations that are purely philanthropic, knee jerk reactions not
based on long term social perspectives.
92 • THOMAS KIMELI CHERUIYOT & PATRICK ONSANDO
Similarly, is a transversal issue that impacts the organization in many diﬀ erent
ways, and is occasionally described as an oxymoron, arising from its duplicity,
multiplicity of initiatives and because of the naturally conﬂ icted nature of the cor-
poration (Devinney, 2009). This leads to misuse of CSR, since each scholar and
practitioner uses the concept and applies it for his own beneﬁ t.
In addition, despite decades of studies, CSR remains an embryonic, contestable
(Windsor, 2006) and ﬂ uid concept. Acting as both a means and an end. Its instru-
mentality makes it an integral element of organization’s strategy (means) and also
a way of maintaining the legitimacy of organization activities in the wider society
by espousing and meeting stakeholder concerns, interests and expectations (end).
Furthermore, the meaning and value of CSR may diﬀ er in various contexts,
depending on local factors such as culture, environmental conditions and legal
framework (Galbreath, 2006). Accordingly, diﬀ erent cultures will espouse diﬀ er-
ent values (Burton, Farh, & Hegarty, 2000), norms and traditions, leading to lack
of universal CSR position.
Prior studies on CSR generally have provided little attention to African unique
situations (Aguilera, Rupp, Williams, & Ganapathi, 2007; Cheruiyot & Maru,
2012). This is critical since CSR is the most legitimate and universal framework
for determining social dimension of business responsibility and issues of corpo-
rate governance. Studies on CSR in African organizations are critical, increas-
ingly because of the continent’s rise in global signiﬁ cance.
For instance, while, Garriga and Melé (2004) classify CSR theories into instru-
mental, political, integrative and ethical theories, Galbreath (2006) provided stra-
tegic conﬁ guration of CSR into shareholder, altruistic, reciprocal and citizenship
strategies. Thus, demonstrating a fragmented but useful approach to CSR studies.
As a basis for CSR, HR is relevant to economic, social and environmental
aspects of corporate activity, especially in the global market place (Cassel, 2001),
augmented by HR based approaches such as; UN Global Compact, Certiﬁ cation
SA8000 and more signiﬁ cantly Universal Declaration of HR. It is recognized that
part of being a good corporate citizen includes respecting HR of stakeholders.
Conventionally, HR fell into the domain of states and individuals not on corpo-
rations (Lozano & Prandi, 2005). However, this model whereby only states and
individuals can be held responsible for HR abuse is under question. So, while
primary responsibility for the enforcement of international HR standards lie with
the national governments, there is a growing acceptance that corporations also
have important role to play (Australian Human Rights Commission, 2008). In-
creasingly, companies are linking HR to their CSR upstream and downstream
strategies. There is a new corporate paradigm in which respect for minimum in-
ternational HR standards has become an issue inextricably linked to the process
of building a responsible company. Companies are increasingly required to build
their legitimacy and identity on the basis of respect for HR, increasingly seen as
an integral part of responsible 21st century corporation and corporate leadership
(Lozano & Prandi, 2005).
Corporate Social Responsibility in Africa • 93
Granted that CSR is a fuzzy concept, the issues of to whom to be socially
responsible and the reasons for social responsibility has been a subject of intense
debate in the management literature. Further, the dimensions and manifestations
of its application in practice have not been adequately explored. Corporate social
responsibility is therefore a multidimensional construct. It is subject to varied
interpretations and has been described as non-monolithic, oxymoron and fuzzy.
Accordingly review of literature reveals the crisis of deﬁ ning the concept and
of establishing, its operationalization, legitimacy and impacts. Some select CSR
deﬁ nitions include among others:
CSR denotes the commitment by ﬁ rms to behave reasonably and responsibly
and contribute to local economic development, while improving the quality of
life of its employees as well as the local community and essentially, about com-
panies combining economic, social, environmental and human rights interests for
the good of the company, society and other stakeholders, and a way of managing
change and reconciling social development with improved competitiveness (Eu-
ropean Commission, 2001).
CSR is the continuing commitment by business to behave ethically and con-
tribute to economic development while improving the quality of life of the work-
force and their families as well as of the local community and society at large
CSR is a business organization’s conﬁ guration of principles of social responsi-
bility, processes of social responsiveness, and policies, programs and observable
outcomes as they relate to the ﬁ rm’s societal relationships (Wood, 1991).
CSR is concerned with treating the stakeholders of a company or institution
ethically or in a responsible manner. ‘Ethically’ or ‘responsible’ means treat-
ing key stakeholders in a manner deemed acceptable according to international
norms. Social includes economic and environmental responsibility. The social
As a start, CSR encapsulates policies and programs of private ﬁ rms that go
in ways that are both good for business and good for development (Ward, 2004).
beyond legal requirements as a response to public pressures and societal
expecta-tions (Vogel, 2005). CSR is also viewed as a model of extended
corporate gov-ernance, whereby ﬁ rm management, have responsibilities that
range from fulﬁ ll-ment of their ﬁ duciary duties towards the owners, to fulﬁ
llment of analogous ﬁ duciary duties towards all the ﬁ rm’s stakeholders
(Sacconi, 2004). Additionally, CSR is a concept whereby companies integrate
social and environmental con-cerns in their business operations and in their
interaction with their stakeholders on a voluntary basis (European Commission,
2001).Furthermore, CSR is deﬁned as the commitment of business to contribute
to sustainable economic development by working with employees, their
families, the local community and society at large to improve their quality of life,
94 • THOMAS KIMELI CHERUIYOT & PATRICK ONSANDO
responsibility of business encompasses the economic, legal, ethical and discre-
tionary expectations that a society has of organizations at a given point in time
More brieﬂ y, CSR is a process to achieve sustainable development in societies
The aforementioned deﬁ nitions of CSR demonstrate its over breath and lack of
operational consistency. However, a more critical focus indicates some constructs
of CSR common in African lens and accordingly we deﬁ ne CSR in Africa as; Or-
ganization commitment to economic, social, legal and environmental rights, and
responsible outcomes for sustainability of the human race.
CSR CONCEPT AND ISSUES OF
CONCERN IN AFRICA: A PARADOX?
CSR in Africa is at best described as paradoxical, and its business display at best
publicly viewed with both skepticism and cynicism. These attitudes are common
in African context due to historical, cultural, economic and political realities and
Whilst a paradox is (a) statement or a proposition that, despite sound (or appar-
ently sound) reasoning from acceptable premises, leads to a conclusion that seems
senseless, logically unacceptable, or self-contradictory and/or (b) statement that
apparently contradicts itself and yet might be true. Most logical paradoxes are
known to be invalid arguments but are still valuable.
Whilst cynicism is an inclination to believe that people are motivated purely by
self-interest, skepticism is an attitude of scornful or jaded negativity, especially a
general distrust of the integrity or professed motives of others.
Furthermore, optimism is a mental attitude or world-view that interprets situa-
tions and events as being best (optimized), meaning that in some way for factors
that may not be. Alternatively, it is a tendency to expect the best possible outcome
or dwell on the most hopeful aspects of a situation. Accordingly, CSR issues of
concern in Africa include among others; poor communities in close proximity to
business, environmental impact of business activities and climate change, corrupt
business practices, working conditions and work environment including health
and safety, minimum wage, human rights record including exploitation, child la-
bor and sexual harassment, tax evasion and lack of disclosure and public health,
THEORIES OF CSR AND THE AFRICAN CONTEXT
CSR diﬀ ers considerably across the countries and continents of the world, as
several studies have shown (Dobers & Halme, 2009). Whilst CSR theories and
practices in Africa is generally adopted from the Western world, organization
studies suggest that Western CSR theories are not totally applicable in Africa, due
Corporate Social Responsibility in Africa • 95
to diﬀ erences in structural, institutional and cultural drivers of CSR between the
Western and African countries (Dartey-Baah & Amponsah-Tawiah, 2011).
Accounting for these, are political and socio-economic factors, partly inﬂ u-
encing the development, understanding, and implementation of CSR. Globally,
whilst Europe has taken a leading position when it comes to the promotion and
implementation of CSR, in Africa, political and economic conditions have not
been beneﬁ cial for a rapid evolution of CSR, but some countries display an in-
creasing interest in CSR, and some studies have been conducted (Dawkins &
Ngunjiri, 2008; Mitchell & Hill, 2009).
Organization studies on CSR in Africa have been fragmented, asymmetrical
and less representative. Accordingly, African wide studies are scanty with notable
exceptions being (Forstater, et al., 2010; Okoye, 2012; Visser, 2006). Studies have
focused on dozen countries with emphasis in South Africa (Hinson & Ndhlovu,
2011), Kenya (e.g. Cheruiyot & Maru, 2012; 2014; Muthuri, 2013); Nigeria (e.g.
Amaeshi, Adi, Ogbechie, & Amao, 2006; Amao, 2008), Tanzania (e.g. Egels,
2005) and Ghana (e.g., Julian & Ofori-Dankwa, 2013).
African studies on CSR have failed to address theories of CSR in Africa, with
many studies transplanting wholesome western theories without contextualizing
them. Accordingly, application of indigenous CSR theories such as Ubuntu/Utu
(humanism), African renaissance, Omuluwabi and ‘Harambee’ have been sug-
gested to remedy the limits of Western CSR theories in Africa. Perhaps the most
important theory that transcends African societies is humanism.
African humanism (referred to as Ubuntu in Southern Africa, Utu in Eastern
and central Africa) is core to the concept of CSR in Africa. African culture es-
pouses humanism as a way of life. Exercise of African humanism is uncondi-
tional, irrespective of status, gender, religion, ethnicity and race. Amongst other
aspects, humanism includes the consideration of basic dignity and humanity of
stakeholder rights. African humanism is referred to variously as Ubuntu in South-
ern Africa and Utu in Eastern and Central Africa, which is popularly equated to
local communal values and customs. Inherently humanism is social responsibility
in its totality. It applies to business (CSR) as well as government. Accordingly, a
humanistic paradigm for sustainable development in the future is inevitable. Af-
rican humanism, denoted as Ubuntu and Utu, provides a strong base for the com-
munity concept of management, and enhances African humanistic values. The
African understanding of humanism is deeper than western theoretical strands.
Accordingly, business and society are treated as interwoven, rather than assumed
to be distinct entities. As a consequence, society places certain expectations on
appropriate business behavior and outcomes.
96 • THOMAS KIMELI CHERUIYOT & PATRICK ONSANDO
IS CSR CONSISTENT WITH AFRICAN
HUMANISM OR IS IT WESTERN MIMICRY?
African business and organizations are expected to be an integral part of the so-
ciety. Whilst this may be so, a signiﬁ cant share of business and organizations in
Africa comprise of foreign multinational corporations and organizations. Granted
that CSR should be consistent with African cultural values, it unclear if this is so.
CSR is consistent with African cultural values. These values consistent with CSR
include among others a sense of community life, a sense of good human relations,
a sense of the sacredness of life, a sense of hospitality, a sense of the sacred and
of religion and a sense of humanism.
African humanism particularly, embodied in African CSR, is a way of life and
is embodied in rituals, stories, cultural practices, symbolism and myths, and takes
the human being as the starting point, emphasizing the ‘dignity’ and ‘worth’ of
an individual. A basic premise of humanism is that human beings possess within
themselves the capacity for truth and goodness. Humanism is widely known in
Southern Africa proverbially as “umuntu ngumuntu ngabantu” (a person is a per-
son through other persons). Similarly, a Kiswahili proverb that captures this Afri-
can notion is that “Mtu ni utu si kitu” (value is in human, not wealth).
Several of these proverbs are concerned both with the peculiar interdepen-
dence of persons on others for the exercise, development and fulﬁ llment of their
powers that is recognized in African traditional thought and cultural practices. Af-
rican culture is non-individualistic, emphasizing people and their feelings, com-
munal happiness, and the creation of harmony in the workplace. Accordingly,
business and organizations will gain unﬂ inching loyalty and unwavering support
of its community and publics. African CSR is consistent with the principle of
maintaining social and communal harmony and consensus. A sense of mutuality
between business and community is important, for instance, in Kenya, “Haram-
bee” is the spirit of pooling together resources both physical and human to meet
critical resource threshold. It is a traditional approach to resource mobilization,
in order to meet the cost of social services, especially education and health. It is
a way of life, and a traditional custom of East Africans. Accordingly, each com-
munity have at least a self-help or co-operative work groups by which groups of
women on one hand and men on the other organized common work parties, for
example to cultivate or build houses for each other; clear bushes and to harvest
among other activities. Harambee embodies the idea of mutual assistance, joint
eﬀ ort, mutual social responsibility and community self-reliance. Since business is
an integral part of society, it is called upon to participate in these activities. CSR
in Africa, of this nature is consistent with African values. It is clearly a moral busi-
ness responsibility. However, surveys of CSR amongst businesses in Africa have
found that the most common approach to CSR issues is through philanthropic
support, in particular focusing on education, health and environment (Forstater
et al., 2010). This is inconsistent with African non-individualistic culture, since
Corporate Social Responsibility in Africa • 97
philanthropic CSR diminish sense of humanism and instead glorify the material-
ity in the giving.
CSR AT MACRO, MESO, AND MICRO LEVEL IN AFRICA
CSR in Africa has its own unique features, distinct from other regions of the
world. For instance, while it may not be unanimous, Rossouw (2005) suggests
three areas that characterize the wider area of business ethics in Africa. These are
macro-level which focus on the inﬂ uence of Africa’s colonial and neo-colonial
past; the meso-level, which deals with the moral responsibility of business to-
wards the reconstruction of African societies; and on the micro-level, which is the
way in which individual businesses deal with aﬃ rmative action to overcome the
consequences of historical racism, sexism and economic exclusion (Visser, 2006).
In Africa, CSR at the macro level, focus on regional and global initiatives, par-
adigms and relevant theories for mainstreaming social responsibility in the con-
tinent. This includes initiatives such as African peer review mechanism (APRM)
introduced a decade ago but that seems to have receded recently. More critically,
this includes challenges of implementing CSR at the continental level. Colonial
and neo-colonial history introduces unique geopolitical, social and cultural diﬀ er-
ences across the continent. Sub-Saharan Africa and their Northern Africa coun-
terparts diﬀ er in both cultural and social orientation, particularly the dominant
religion, which in turn aﬀ ects the moral and ethical persuasion of the countries
concerned. Continent-wide CSR initiatives suﬀ er from such challenges as com-
mitment by political and business leadership, social and political conﬂ icts, weak
regulatory frameworks, corruption among others. Global initiatives such as global
compact are unlikely to signiﬁ cantly alter the current situation unless applied uni-
formly by all stakeholders.
Similarly, meso-level CSR entails CSR within each African country and other
geopolitical zones. It captures cultural antecedents and challenges of implement-
ing CSR at country level. Many African countries neither have social guidelines
nor legal framework for mainstreaming social responsibility by organizations.
This is perhaps paradoxical in that, while there exist very high social expectations
of business in Africa, this has been voluntary. Many business organizations in Af-
rica are largely either multinational or small enterprises, both of which are largely
constrained to participate in CSR activities but for diﬀ erent reasons. Multination-
als, majority of whom are largely shareholder driven entities pay lip service to
social responsibility or at best undertake public relations in the guise of CSR, due
to strong pressure from their western shareholders. On the other hand, majority of
small enterprises in Africa seldom have enough resources to be deployed to social
responsibility and are merely engaged in business survival. This is exacerbated by
lack of systematic and deliberate action to mainstream CSR in African countries
and institutions. Country level CSR should therefore focus on identifying areas
of corporate social responsibility, developing national priorities and providing le-
gal framework for undertaking CSR activities. This has recently been attempted
98 • THOMAS KIMELI CHERUIYOT & PATRICK ONSANDO
in Nigeria and in Kenya where a new constitution has entrenched human rights
Micro-level captures CSR by individual institutions, enterprises and entities
to communities, employees, customers, shareholders and public. Such entities
have unique strategies and policies for undertaking CSR activities. In African
countries, most such entities undertake philanthropic activities, while ensuring
maximum media coverage to leverage on marketing and public relations. Most
of these activities are in response to call for assistance due to critical situations
or emergencies, often reactionary and single, one oﬀ events. These actions do not
amount to CSR, since responsibility by its very nature is long term and sustain-
able. To the extent that actions are reactionary, short term, non-targeted, it does
not achieve desired long-term sustainability.
WHY CSR IS CRITICAL IN AFRICAN CONTEXT
Africa with its long history of social and economic deprivation such as slavery,
colonialism, economic and trade inequalities, MNC resource over-exploitation
and degradation, among others calls for urgent and clear focus on CSR both as a
social and political empowerment strategy.
Although there is a ray of hope, the level of poverty and inequality in Africa
is both more intensive and extensive than elsewhere in the world. CSR therefore
objectively raises the morality of such inequities and impoverishment. Accord-
ingly, arguments for CSR have long recognized enlightened self-interest as well
as beliefs about corporate good citizenship and a beneﬁ cial social role of busi-
ness. The urgency stems from a realization that the criticism of business is more
far-reaching than ever before. This is partly because, with globalization, business
activities particularly in Africa, is more pervasive, powerful and socially disrup-
tive. Similarly, the urgency is as a result of growing recognition of the failure of
African governments to solve many social problems and, the diminished scope of
government in certain regions of Africa. This has led to recent criticism of busi-
ness in a more far-reaching way, to match business expectations.
Organizations are increasingly expected to address social problems and, shoul-
der greater social responsibilities in addition to addressing social issues for which
it is more directly responsible, such as; environmental pollution, product safety
and quality, and social inequities.
Furthermore, African countries have weak laws and, are poorly regulated, and
where such laws exist, they are poorly enforceable due to social or political exi-
gencies. Accordingly, CSR is necessary in an African context in order to avoid or
pre-empt legal or regulatory sanctions.
The “Good” Part of CSR
Corporations can and should, be instruments of social policy. An instrumen-
talist and rational perspective of this notion is that business is part of society
Corporate Social Responsibility in Africa • 99
and business has resources to make social change. This is particularly true for
the many MNC’s doing business in Africa, such as Nestle, Vodafone, Guinness,
In the same vein, CSR is good because corporations (or “markets”) are the
most eﬃ cient way of determining social needs and delivering social solutions.
From this perspective we can highlight four reasons why a society would want
ﬁ rms to act as instruments of policy and be active CSR participants
First, stakeholders are rational beings. Based on this logic, corporations with
more acceptable practices within a society would have more satisﬁ ed customers,
employees, communities and shareholders, enhance its longevity and thrive in
more adverse environments (Reich, 2007), more particularly in Africa.
Second, corporations possess more knowledge than individuals and govern-
ments accruing from their ongoing and active research and hence are more likely
to use that knowledge to meet the demands of their various stakeholders.
Third, corporations have a better understanding of trade-oﬀ s, technologies,
and trends operating within a society and can act on them in a way that is more
rational and realistic than governments.
Finally, being free of the transparency required of governments and many civil
society organizations, corporations can more easily engage in social innovation
and experimentation (McClintock, 1999). This social innovation and experimen-
tation could widely beneﬁ t stakeholders.
The “Bad” Part of CSR
In Africa, corporations are associated with among others exploitation of CSR
for the beneﬁ t of business without commensurate social beneﬁ ts. An assump-
tion underlying CSR is that ﬁ rms are guided by society and do not deliberately
manipulate that society for their own beneﬁ t, this of course has been met with
skepticism in many parts of Africa. The notion is disputable due to the follow-
ing corporate vices; First, corporations exist to generate economic returns, not to
solve societal problems. They live to optimize for themselves and their core stake-
holders; shareholders, managers, employees, suppliers, governments, etc., not the
general public. They are therefore inherently and perpetually opportunistic.
Second, corporations skew societal standards to suit their own needs. This is
commonly done through manipulating the legal and political environment.
Third, corporations are not representative of the society at large. Entrepreneurs
in Africa, though small and micro do not represent the poor and disadvantaged of
a society, nor do they represent the geographic spread of a society. This disparity
is even worse considering the signiﬁ cance of MNC’s in African countries.
Fourth, with the exception of innovative type, most organizations are naturally
socially conservative and hence will only experiment when they could see a clear
beneﬁ t from the endeavor. This is potentially paradoxical, since although orga-
nizations have an incentive to engage in some market experimentation, they are
unlikely to engage in socially confronting experimentation.
100 • THOMAS KIMELI CHERUIYOT & PATRICK ONSANDO
Fifth, CSR allows governments to abdicate some of their social responsibili-
ties, thus making the delivery of those social services provided by companies less
accountable and transparent and more subject to the whims of unelected decision
The “Ugly” part of CSR
Many business commentators decry the lack of clear evidence that doing well
by doing good has a clear and unambiguous relationship to the generation of busi-
ness and organization value.
Second, studies most notably, Orlitzky, Schmidt, and Rynes (2003), have sug-
gested unclear causality between a ﬁ rm’s speciﬁ c CSR programs and business
outcomes that can inﬂ uence performance. Hence the relationship between CSR
and performance is such that performance could drive CSR activities and CSR
activities could drive performance, or an existence of a recursive model.
From our perspective the relationship between CSR and corporate performance
can be broken down into four basic areas that encompass nearly all the (non-
moral) reasons why corporations and managers would take on CSR initiatives: (a)
their impact on customers and demand, (b) their impact on cost, productivity, and
eﬃ ciency, (c) their impact on intangibles, innovation, and the duration of assets,
and (d) their impact on risk (cost of capital).
Worse still, CSR could be an ex post facto discretionary reaction to internal
and external organizational and strategic conﬂ icts. Some studies have showed that
ﬁ rms that engage in earnings manipulations are signiﬁ cantly more likely to also
engage in CSR activities as a cover up and public window dressing. For instance,
Chen, Patten, and Roberts (2008) showed a similar oﬀ set strategy whereby ﬁ rms
with poor environmental and product safety performance engage in more phi-
lanthropy. Similarly, the ‘art of deception’ whereby, organizations too often tend
to select one isolated issue and attempt to magnify and use it for advertising or
marketing purposes in order to improve a ﬁ rm’s image. In addition, organizations
may miss the ‘broad picture’ while engaging solely in a strictly rational or eco-
nomic decision-making process in an attempt to determine the precise return on
investment for money put into CSR. Similarly, limited rational or manipulative
thinking, characteristic of CSR in Africa, will ultimately backﬁ re in the long run.
Stakeholders will eventually catch on and will perceive that the ﬁ rm is not being
authentic or “real” in its approach to CSR. In other words, if managers do not
recognize the full ramiﬁ cations of CSR in terms of what it is and its complexities,
they might be better advised to not even concern themselves with it. Managers
should have a genuine or authentic desire to pursue CSR in order to truly realize
its beneﬁ ts for themselves, their ﬁ rms, and stakeholder groups. To say it another
way, managers should attempt to lead CSR, rather than just manage CSR. None-
theless, executives pursuing personal visions of a better world using shareholders’
money and often with insuﬃ cient regard for the likely eﬀ ectiveness or possible
ill-consequences of their initiatives could lead to weak incentives for investment
Corporate Social Responsibility in Africa • 101
and innovation. (examples HIV AIDS drugs and other debilitating diseases). Fi-
nally, there are legitimate grounds for concern about some CSR initiatives. On the
one hand, there is so often little real substance to what some ﬁ rms claim to do.
CSR AND SMALL AND MICRO ENTERPRISES IN AFRICA
African business environment is characterized by signiﬁ cant number of small
and micro enterprises. This is profoundly important in regard to understanding
and implementing CSR in Africa. There is no reason why smaller or less visible
companies should be considered any less responsible for their social and envi-
ronmental impacts of their activities, to the contrary, CSR should be treated more
seriously to enhance the impact locally and also Africa.
Stakeholder Theory and CSR
CSR emerged from the recognition of the need for corporate responsibility
beyond shareholders. Corporate shareholder model has faced severe criticism
for decades, giving way to more acceptable, inclusive stakeholder model. This is
more critical in Africa, where levels of poverty are high and governments seldom
have enough resources to meet social expectations. Stakeholders such as custom-
ers, communities, employees and general public among others demand special
corporate considerations. Internal and external CSR are two main dimensions of
CSR. Internal CSR has been relatively ignored in Africa, with employees expe-
riencing poor working conditions and weak shareholder protection laws such as
lack of ﬁ nancial disclosure and insider trading in many African countries. Exter-
nal CSR includes focus on customers, communities among other stakeholders.
It has been argued that though stakeholder theory is useful in reconciling vari-
ous interests, perceptual issues, may inﬂ uence the results due to paradoxical out-
comes or dissonance between perceptions and organizational practices (Cheruiyot
& Maru, 2012). Generally, there is a paradigmatic shift from social-economic
approach to social-human stakeholder focus. The following subsections explain
CSR and each of the main stakeholder groups.
CSR and Shareholders
Shareholder social responsibility is paradoxical in nature in that, corporations
are owned by shareholders for proﬁ t making yet they are often victims of cor-
porate social irresponsibility. Lack of transparency, poor investment decisions,
alienation of majority of shareholders, among others Agency and corporate gov-
ernance problems have exacerbated calls for shareholder oriented CSR. Although
related, this should not be confused with shareholder activism. Agency and gov-
ernance problems have been experienced in Africa due to weak regulatory frame-
work, poor corporate oversight, corruption laws and also in some instances state
102 • THOMAS KIMELI CHERUIYOT & PATRICK ONSANDO
CSR and Employees
Employee CSR has been relatively ignored in Africa, with employees experi-
encing poor working conditions, remuneration and social security. However, few
studies focusing on employee CSR have been undertaken such as Cheruiyot and
Maru (2012, 2014). The two studies found poor employee-oriented CSR in Ke-
nya. They also found that lack of satisfaction on key CSR issues was not directly
associated with negative outcomes such as commitment and turnover intentions.
Accordingly, they argued that employee’s commitment and retention could be as
a result of unique economic and social factors in an African context. Since some
of the employee practices are socially irresponsible, this is unlikely to be sustain-
able in the long term, since international labor practices are fast gaining currency
in Africa. Regulatory frameworks targeting poor working conditions and human
rights have been formulated already in a number of African countries such as
Kenya. For instance, kinds of problems experienced by workers in horticultural
farms and tourism hotels in Kenya included: Employment insecurity, overtime
work, sexual harassment, low wages, lack of access to maternity leave, minimal
union membership among the workers, poor communication between workers,
supervisors and management, poor transport facilities. Others included frequent
exposure to adverse working environment (e.g. chemicals), lack of opportunities
for promotions, Lack of a proper complaints procedure, and lack of awareness of
codes among the workers and human rights.
CSR and Communities
For centuries, African communities thrived and sustained themselves in rela-
tive harmony with the environment. Even, despite increasing resource exploita-
tion, Africa remains one of the last bastions of biodiversity and one of the least
polluted continents. However, political and social conﬂ icts, lack of basic educa-
tion skills, health threats (e.g., HIV/AIDS, Malaria, Ebola, Tuberculosis, Cancer)
and youth unemployment are challenges that face many African countries, ravag-
ing communities and causing human suﬀ ering. Multinationals from the west and
increasingly from China and India, are perpetrating or abetting conﬂ icts, encour-
aging child labor and gender discrimination.
Accordingly, civil society and other lobbies have called for community social
responsibility in Africa, to include not only the philanthropic nature, but CSR that
concerns itself with capacity building, enhancing acquisition of skills and quality
youth employment, among others.
CSR and Customers
In African context, most customers are presumably not well informed, are
subject to corporate manipulation over quality, pricing and promotion. CSR is
expected to not only augment social progress but also to reverse corporate social
Corporate Social Responsibility in Africa • 103
irresponsibility. Other customer CSR concerns include; consumer education and
information, product safety and durability, and post-purchase support.
African consumer is increasingly educated, informed, but less so compared to
Characteristics of African Social and Business Environment
African society and business environment, has a unique character and context.
The uniqueness of African society reﬂ ects its temporal and spatial character, due
to inter-regional, intra-regional, inter-organizational and intra-organizational dif-
ferences. However, it would be foolhardy to assume that Africa is homogenous
and unitary. This assumption has led to reference to African organizations and
communities as one large agglomeration of similar sub-cultures. However, Afri-
can communities and organizations exhibit rich diversity, between the Northern
and Sub-Saharan Africa, and within these two distinct identities.
General Characteristics of African Organizations
African business consists of many small local enterprises, a few medium sized
enterprises and large foreign multinationals. The small local enterprises have a
weak ﬁ nancial base and visibility (for example a small kiosk in a village in Kenya,
takshops in Namibia and Suki in Ethiopia). The relatively weak resource base
and/or small size limit adoption of CSR strategies by these enterprises compared
to their large counterparts.
Furthermore, there are huge social expectations placed on business organiza-
tions in African society. This is explained by large income disparities, low educa-
tion levels among the population, and the high social visibility of multinational
Meanwhile, social and community political power is asymmetrical, favoring
large foreign multinationals over social actors. Incidence of protests aimed at
multinationals, as in the past been witnessed the Niger Delta in Nigeria, Mtwara
region of Tanzania and Turkana of Kenya over the perceived lack of local beneﬁ ts
from local resources.
Signiﬁ cantly, African business environment is weakly regulated. Most national
legal systems and frameworks are weak or nonexistent, and where the law is in
place it is poorly enforced. Individual and communal rights are therefore not guar-
Moreover, African culture is rich in social and community support among its
members. African cultures display diversity, but remarkable similarity in terms of
being distinctly non-individualistic in character (Lutz, 2009). Accordingly, com-
munity is the cornerstone of African thought and life, and an “African is not a
rugged individual, but a person within a community” (p. 314).
104 • THOMAS KIMELI CHERUIYOT & PATRICK ONSANDO
In addition, the paradoxical nature of Africa’s dilemma is that while there is a
humanistic and communal focus, a wide-scale consensus has yet to be established
as regards what the common good or venture should be.
Overall, in Africa and most developing countries where pace and ownership
of business is dictated by MNCs, demands for more development programs and
assistance to host communities have become more conspicuous (Hinson & Ndhl-
ovu, 2011). Leading to widespread community demand for relevant, direct and
sustainable beneﬁ ts from local resources. These MNE’s are expected to perform
some quasi-governmental role like providing social services and welfare pro-
grams. At times these demands have become acrimonious leading to protests and
strife. Examples include Shell and its impact on the Ogoni people in Nigeria (Ite,
2004), Mtwara region of Tanzania and Turkana people of Kenya over the per-
ceived lack of local beneﬁ ts from local resources.
ANTECEDENTS OF CSR IN AFRICA
CSR in Africa has been driven and motivated by several factors and actors.
Firstly, CSR is driven by multinationals and consumer organizations promot-
ing western CSR models, world organizations such as the United Nations World
Summit on Sustainable Development, UN Global Compact, World Trade Organi-
zations and OECD Guidelines for Multinationals. Secondly, African based organi-
zations such as the African Union, which provides for a focus on corporate gover-
nance and CSR through the New Partnership for Africa’s Development (NEPAD)
African Peer Review Mechanism. Thirdly, Western consumers driven codes of
conduct covering business activities, including BASEL code, SA 8000, fair-trade.
Furthermore, the growing importance of foreign direct investment from EU, US
and emergence of Chinese investments in Africa play a leading role. Similarly,
the rise of the international NGO movement and civil society focusing on the
ethical practices of companies in Africa and the increase in multilateral interest in
social and environmental impacts, including by the World Bank and International
Finance Corporation are instrumental in shaping CSR agenda in Africa.
Finally, the growing signiﬁ cance of African indigenous CSR related initiatives
such as the Black Economic Empowerment in South Africa and the small but
growing driver of socially responsible investment (SRI) funds.
Challenges of CSR Africa
One of the most critical challenges is the “natural resource curse” or the “para-
dox of plenty”. Resource rich but ‘poor’ countries have been unable to utilize its
wealth for public good. Generally, factors responsible for this problem, are poor
corporate and political governance, theft and corruption, inter ethnic conﬂ ict,
environmental degradation and lack of resource diversity. This phenomenon is
experienced in the Democratic Republic of Congo, Niger Delta of Nigeria, South
Sudan, Angola, among others. Pursuit of appropriate leadership model and CSR
Corporate Social Responsibility in Africa • 105
policies, if properly implemented could partly ameliorate this situation. Countries
that have successfully managed to fairly balanced resource-led growth in the re-
cent past include among others; Ghana, Botswana, South Africa, Mauritius and
Leadership crisis challenge both in corporate and political governance is an-
other critical area. CSR in Africa is often abused and misused by corporate and
political leaders to gain social and political power. This is unacceptable, since
CSR should be genuine, long term, and should not be used to gain political or so-
cial power, but be beneﬁ cial to the wider society. Worse still, some political lead-
ers are complicit with their business counterparts in social deprivation, through
corruption and resource depletion activities. Exceptional servant leadership es-
poused by prominent African leaders such as Nelson Mandela, and to some ex-
tent, Julius Nyerere is rare in Africa today. Such leadership style is consistent with
social responsibility and was the hallmark of many traditional African societies.
Attempts at addressing such leadership problems have been initiated in Africa for
instance, African renaissance, African peer review mechanism, the Mo Founda-
tion leadership awards among others have been dismal.
Africa’s other CSR challenge is the monumental level of social expectations
of government and to some extent business organizations. Whilst business pay
taxes to the government to implement programs and meet the social expectations,
most of these
SUGGESTED SOLUTIONS FOR AFRICAN CHALLENGES
Despite this increasing attention paid to CSR in Africa, it has still had a limited
impact on the marketplace. The types of products and services that could help
solve Africa sustainable development challenges are seldom given a high priority.
Nevertheless, a few examples highlight the potential for the market to be an im-
portant driver for CSR, including: the accessible pricing of medicines for diseases
such as HIV/ AIDS, malaria and drug-resistant TB; the massive uptake of mobile
telephony and the positive impact it can have on the digital divide; and innova-
tive banking products for the poor. It is critical that these and other kinds of CSR
opportunities are taken up, in collaboration with the government and NGO sec-
tors, to promote eﬀ ective solutions to Africa’s social, ethical and environmental
CSR CASE EXAMPLES IN SOUTH AFRICA AND KENYA
Utilizing internet sources, we brieﬂ y examine cases of CSR in two companies,
one each from South Africa and Kenya and then draw some useful lessons.
Case of Safaricom, Kenya
Safaricom limited is incorporated in Kenya as one of the leading integrated
communications companies in Africa with over 17 million subscribers. It pro-
106 • THOMAS KIMELI CHERUIYOT & PATRICK ONSANDO
vides mobile and ﬁ xed voice as well as data services on a variety of platforms.
Through Safaricom foundation, its CSR entails directly sponsoring community
activities, projects and events that make positive contributions to the public in
arts, culture, health, sports, education and environment. The company’s goal is to
impact communities in direct ways through support for community projects while
generating positive publicity for the company (instrumentalist CSR).
In recognition of the growing challenge of e-waste management, and to aug-
ment the already existing initiatives, it funded the purchase of a state of the art
e-waste grinder for computers to be utilized by Kenyan schools, invested in envi-
ronmental supporting initiatives and wildlife conservation through participatory
conservation activities, public education and sustainable preservation of natural
resources. Safaricom won the top Gold Award for planting over a million trees in
On health, the company supported initiatives that increase access to aﬀ ord-
able health care, including specialized health care that is often out of reach of
many Kenyans. It partnered with health care service providers and communi-
ties in constructing and equipping health facilities, providing health information
and services through medical camps and supporting the provision of specialized
In terms of water provision, in partnership with the Kenya Red Cross Society
and Action Aid International-Kenya, Safaricom implemented large scale com-
munity water projects, under “Maji na Uhai’ initiative, and committed funds for
large-scale water projects in arid and semi-arid areas of the country.
Safaricom has partnered with organizations and community groups to preserve
and promote Kenya’s natural heritage in arts, sports, music and culture. For in-
stance, it partnered with National Museums of Kenya and the Kenya Museum
Society to renovate the Louis Leakey Auditorium. It supports sports projects that
provide opportunities for the integration of health, education and life skills into
sport. The company also extended its partnership with Alive and Kicking, an
NGO that uses football and netball to create awareness on HIV&AIDS, malaria
and other key health issues among young people in Nyanza. It has sponsored the
Sports Personality of the Year (SOYA).
Case of ESKOM, South Africa
Eskom, a parastatal of the South African government since its founding in
1925, has established itself as a world-class electricity company. It supplies over
95% of South Africa’s electricity needs and over 50% of the electricity needs of
Africa. With its head oﬃ ce being located in Johannesburg and other oﬃ ces are
situated in Uganda, Nigeria and Mali.
The company has a variety of CSI initiatives, including sponsorships and do-
nations, which are managed by its development Foundation. Established in 1998,
Eskom’s Development Foundation facilitates the management, coordination and
integration of the company’s donations, ﬁ nancial or in the form of assets, in sup-
Corporate Social Responsibility in Africa • 107
port of promoting its image and activities in disadvantaged communities, where
it provides services. Typically, up to almost $10,000 cash donations can be ap-
proved by the Foundation, as can donations of assets to registered non-proﬁ t or-
ganizations that preferably have welfare, education or training objectives. The
company also sponsors events for organizations or individuals, so long as doing
so is expected to advance Eskom’s marketing and corporate objectives. Through
the Development Foundation, Eskom supports “community development” initia-
tives, which are designed to help develop critical skills (e.g., adult literacy, tech-
nical skills training, business management training, and life skills training) and
provide educational support to impoverished communities, such as teacher train-
ing, school supplies and equipment, and early childhood development. Eskom
also has “small business development” (SBD) initiatives, which its Development
Foundation manages. The objectives of the SBD are to develop small and 23 me-
dium-enterprises (SMEs) in support of the company’s procurement policy, form
strategic alliances and partnerships, facilitate the training of entrepreneurial skills,
and promote entrepreneurial spirit among the previously disadvantaged, to men-
tion a few. Whereas Eskom does not provide ﬁ nancial support to qualiﬁ ed SMEs,
it works with certain ﬁ nancial institutions with which it has entered into a partner-
ship agreement to secure the necessary capital. Through its SBD initiatives, the
company has reported the creation of thousands of jobs, ranging from 760 (1993)
to 2878 (1997). Likewise, the number of SMEs the company has helped to create
range from 233 (1993) and 321 (1997) to a high of 534 (1994).
CONCLUSIONS, SOCIAL, POLITICAL, MANAGERIAL AND
Studies on CSR in Africa, is limited to few countries and context as earlier
indicated. Accordingly, focus on country speciﬁ c studies and intensive African-
wide studies should be encouraged. Depth and breadth of CSR studies focusing
on speciﬁ c sectors such as mining, oil exploration, service among others should
be explored. Africa speciﬁ c theories and models, for instance, African humanism
should be applied in these studies so as to test and understand the veracity of CSR
concepts, principles and processes in Africa.
CSR studies is gaining traction generally and particularly in developing countries
context. Whilst it could be implied that CSR precedes and succeeds
development, CSR in Africa is faced with both challenges and opportunities.
CSR paradox in Africa is both conceptual as well as contextual.
should be pursued religiously by both local and multinational organizations, and
since the market is unlikely to control how much CSR should be pursued,
regulatory framework should be developed for such purpose.
Social implications for CSR in Africa are many. CSR
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