Handbook of Research on Comparative Human Resource Management
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Handbook of Research on Comparative Human Resource Management

Edited by Chris Brewster and Wolfgang Mayrhofer

This unique and path-breaking Handbook explores the issue of comparative Human Resource Management (HRM) and challenges the notion that there can be a ‘one best way’ to manage HRM.
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Chapter 21: The Practice of HRM in Africa in Comparative Perspective

Christine Bischoff and Geoffrey Wood


Christine Bischoff and Geoffrey Wood The body of research on HRM in Africa remains limited, reflecting the peripheral position of the continent in academic discourse, with the bulk of existing work focused on the case of South Africa. Yet it is incorrect to conclude that economic marginalisation simply means that, in most African countries, there is a general lack of attention to people management at all, or that in most cases there is nothing more to people management than simply labour repression. This chapter aims to provide an overview of the key concerns of the existing literature, current debates and practices, and likely future trends. CROSS-CULTURAL APPROACHES TO UNDERSTANDING HRM IN AFRICA Much of the literature on HRM in Africa has been influenced by cultural accounts (Jackson, 2002; Karsten & Illa, 2005; Swartz & Davis, 1997). Many of these accounts, influenced by the work of Hofstede (1991), see variations as in line with distinct cultural communities that are shared across clusters of nations within specific regions, which may be defined against a general standard. Culture is seen as a given: countries may develop their social capital, but it is not possible to depart from established ways of doing things (Fukuyama, 1995). Spector et al. (2002) argue that in dealing with HRM issues, the impact of cultural variations on beliefs about participation and control need to be taken into account: it would be inappropriate to simply impose Western models on non-Western contexts. Studies on HRM in Africa have focused on the communitarian dimensions...

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