Testing the limits of inclusive capitalism : a case study of the South Africa HP i-community
Thesis (MPhil (Sustainable Development Planning and Management))--University of Stellenbosch, 2007.
In the run-up to the Millennium Development Goals of 2015, the United Nations Global Compact and others are targeting major corporations to play an active leadership role in promoting sustainable development. Increasingly, corporations are encouraged to do so while pursuing profit-making business opportunities yielding social good in developing countries. Beyond corporate citizenship, the ideal of “inclusive capitalism” is popularized by C.K. Prahalad, who evangelizes to corporations about the benefits of marketing to the untapped market opportunity offered by the 4 billion poor consumers that make up the “Bottom of the Pyramid”. Hewlett Packard, under former CEO Carley Fiorina embraced this concept; and, supported by President Thabo Mbeki, launched a high profile project to test this proposition at the 2002 UN World Summit on Sustainable Development in Johannesburg. Launched as a three year Public Private Partnership between Hewlett-Packard, the Limpopo Province and the Mogalakwena Municipality, the project aimed at “creating breakthrough models of sustainable development, not altruism, at global replication, not local exclusivity”. Influenced by the author’s status as an IT industry insider in Africa, this narrative case study draws on privileged access to sources. While a single case study cannot serve to validate or discredit a development model, it can effectively expose tensions and contradictions within a model The case examines what happened in the company’s search for these “breakthrough models” in South Africa, and reveals how the competing logics between business realities and development imperatives are not easily reconciled. Early language around the inclusive capitalism or BOP discourse emphasizing unlimited business opportunities and poverty eradication through profits may set unrealistic expectations for business executives.