Local Understandings Of The Entrepreneur And Entrepreneurship: A Phenomenological Case Study From The Southern Highlands Of Tanzania

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Local Understandings Of The Entrepreneur And Entrepreneurship: A Phenomenological Case Study From The Southern Highlands Of Tanzania

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Entrepreneurship education has become a popular proposed solution to a wide range of problems facing youth in sub-Saharan Africa, as a swelling youth population struggles to access quality education, confronts a mismatch between schooling and employment opportunities, and negotiates the impact of globalization. Across the region, governments and non-governmental organizations (NGOs) are implementing educational initiatives that integrate entrepreneurship education in order to address youth unemployment, create job opportunities, and alleviate poverty. Scholars seek to understand the role of entrepreneurship education in development. Some advocates argue that the entrepreneur and entrepreneurship are necessary prerequisites to economic growth, and that educational development initiatives can be used to foster these entities within a population. Critics question whether encouraging individuals to become entrepreneurs and undertake entrepreneurship leads to upward mobility and improves the livelihoods of the intended beneficiaries, as well as whether it creates broader economic outcomes for the community and society generally. Scholarship that promotes entrepreneurship education often examines how initiatives encourage students to become the entrepreneurial archetype, to undertake successful entrepreneurship, and/or attempts to measure and evaluate the short and long term outcomes of entrepreneurship education programs. Meanwhile, there is a growing body of researchers who are interested in the lived experience of young people already learning about and engaged in income generation, and the ways in which individuals describe their pursuit of valued livelihoods amidst local socio-economic constraints. However, as yet there is limited scholarship on the phenomena of the entrepreneur and entrepreneurship within country contexts that host socially and economically vulnerable youth populations that have been targeted by international development agencies for entrepreneurship education. Through this research, conducted within the southern highlands of Tanzania, I studied how local actors understand the entrepreneur and entrepreneurship, and their expectations of the outcomes of entrepreneurship education. This research shows a disconnect between the historically and socially situated meaning of the entrepreneur and entrepreneurship in Tanzania and the standard discourse commonly used by international development agencies and academia to popularize entrepreneurship education reforms. The meaning of being an entrepreneur in this context is derived from socially embedded relationships and educational experiences, and it is often associated with a lower economic class. Sociocultural priorities are paramount in doing entrepreneurship, which means that it plays an important role in poverty alleviation and improving access to educational opportunities. However, gendered experiences affect the meaning of these phenomena to produce different indicators and outcomes for males and females. Self-identifying as an entrepreneur and doing entrepreneurship may not benefit females in the same ways that it benefits males. These findings have important implications for how and why sociocultural and economic context matters when designing, implementing, and adapting entrepreneurship education initiatives.


University of Minnesota Ph.D. dissertation. July 2015. Major: Organizational Leadership, Policy, and Development. Advisor: GERALD FRY. 1 computer file (PDF); vii, 339 pages.

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Weiss, Tamara. (2015). Local Understandings Of The Entrepreneur And Entrepreneurship: A Phenomenological Case Study From The Southern Highlands Of Tanzania. Retrieved from the University Digital Conservancy, https://hdl.handle.net/11299/175367.

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