Leo Paas

Professor Leo Paas is soon to be head of the Business School’s Department of Marketing. Here we take a look at one of his current research projects on entrepreneurship in developing countries.

Adoption of services and apps on mobiles phones by Sub-Saharan African micro-entrepreneurs

In this research project, Leo and his co-authors Emiel Eijdenberg (James Cook University in Singapore) and Enno Masurel (VU University Amsterdam) found that entrepreneurs in Zambia adopt mobile technology in similar orders (called acquisition patterns).

Interestingly, they discovered that mobile money is one of the basic mobile phone service apps for Zambian micro entrepreneurs operating in the food vending sector. This specific app is adopted soon after voice calling and has a similar penetration level to SMS-texting. The researchers extrapolated that in Sub-Saharan Africa (SSA), mobile money is a key motivator for adopting mobile phone technology in general, just like voice calling and SMS-texting were for Western consumers.

Leo and his research partners have demonstrated that acquisition pattern analysis is applicable to the sequential adoption of innovations in contexts where consumers have limited assets, financial and otherwise, and where they consequently need to prioritise the adoption of products and services. This is an important finding because previous research by other academics has found that offering low-income consumers appropriate products and services can enhance their economic performance.

From a managerial perspective, the research findings suggest that a Zambian telecom service provider could inform micro entrepreneurs using voice calls, mobile money and SMS-texting about more advanced apps and services like Facebook, internet browsing and WhatsApp, which are the next steps in the acquisition pattern. If the targeted micro entrepreneur starts using Facebook for example, then more internet browsing time can be sold. On the other hand, LinkedIn and Skype, with lower penetration levels, would be a bridge too far at this stage of the micro entrepreneur’s mobile phone technology maturity development.

From a societal perspective the reported results provide relevant input for course development in SSA, activities in which Leo and his co-authors have been actively involved. The acquisition pattern for services and apps, they found, represents the most common order of adoption. They conjecture that this order results from the theory in practice that micro entrepreneurs use in support of their service adoption decisions and may thereby represent a prudent prioritisation of services and apps. Such information may be communicated during workshops that are targeted at micro entrepreneurs in SSA.