McFalls, Ricarda / 2007. Testing the limits of 'inclusive capitalism': A case study of the South Africa HP i-Community.
Journal of Corporate Citizenship, 28: 85-98

In the run-up to the Millennium Development Goals of 2015, major corporations are targeted by the United Nations Global Compact and others to play an active leadership role in promoting sustainable development. Increasingly, they are encouraged to do so while pursuing profit-making business opportunities yielding social good in developing countries. This ideal of ‘inclusive capitalism’ has been popularised by C.K. Prahalad in the ‘bottom of the pyramid’ (BOP) discourse. Hewlett-Packard, under former CEO Carly Fiorina, embraced this concept and, supported by South African President Thabo Mbeki, launched a three year public–private partnership (PPP) at the 2002 UN World Summit on Sustainable Development in Johannesburg aimed at ‘creating breakthrough models of sustainable development, not altruism’. Influenced by the author’s status as an IT industry insider in Africa, this narrative case study on the Mogalakwena HP i-community in Limpopo Province draws on privileged access to sources. The case examines what happened in the company’s search for these ‘breakthrough models’ and reveals how the competing logics between business realities and development imperatives are not easily reconciled. 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 suggests that the early language around the inclusive capitalism discourse emphasising unlimited business opportunities and poverty eradication through profits may set unrealistic expectations for business executives.

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Sector: Agriculture Education Sanitation Access, Laptops
Region: Southern Africa