Accepted paper:

The legitimacy of returned migrants in developing countries: the case of returnee entrepreneurs in Nairobi- Kenya


Pamela A Mreji (The Technical University of Kenya)

Paper short abstract:

This paper explores how returnee entrepreneurs coming back from developed OECD countries exploit their entrepreneurial potential in developing countries in Africa, which are typically known for their weak institutions and lack of social support frameworks for entrepreneurial development.

Paper long abstract:

Legitimacy of Returned Migrants in Developing Countries: The Case of Returnee Entrepreneurs in Nairobi- Kenya This paper explores how returnee entrepreneurs (RE thereafter) exploit their entrepreneurial potential in developing countries with weak institutions and lacking social support frameworks to support innovation and entrepreneurial development. The paper argues that these REs confront multiple barriers that constitute a 'returnee liability' that reduces their legitimacy and bars them from access to local resources. Their ability to successfully exploit their entrepreneurial potential depends on the managerial strategies they employ to gain and maintain legitimacy in the home country, before they can benefit from policy efforts to provide supportive frameworks for their entrepreneurial initiatives. Through a narrative inquiry into the lived in experiences of REs operating in the hi-tech SME sector in Nairobi-Kenya, commonly referred to as the Silicon Savannah, the findings confirm the presence of returnee liability which is experienced at two distinct levels; the institutional level and the interpersonal level where it creates information asymmetries and raises their transaction costs. While most REs are able to overcome their institutional level liabilities through rhetoric strategies and symbolic actions that convey legitimacy to the external stakeholders, the interpersonal liabilities remain a challenge, greatly inhibiting their ability to fully exploit their entrepreneurial potential and contribute effectively to economic development. These findings should provide policymakers and business managers in these countries with evidence to guide strategic interventions to support the return and integration of returnee entrepreneurs into the local entrepreneurship sector as part of 'brain gain strategies'.

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Mobilities, Migration and Development
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