Interest in the notion that there is an untapped market with significant buying power hidden at the base of the economic pyramid (BOP) has enjoyed increased attention over the last few years. The discourse on this matter is lively and abounds with opposing opinions. Although this discourse is acknowledged in this paper, it is argued that benefits can be derived for all parties if one considers partner cooperation issues (or problems) in a structured way. Partner cooperation in the case of this research refers to the cooperation between multinational information technology companies and local partners in African countries.
This area is of interest because of (frequently high) expectations that information and communication technologies (ICTs) can make a contribution toward development goals in BOP markets. However this is not always achieved and, as has been found by several researchers, this unfavorable outcome is, amongst other things caused by cooperation problems between partners.
The basic argument of this paper is that successful contribution of ICT to development goals is partly dependent on the nature of the cooperation between partners. Thus if there is a need to assess the contribution of ICTs, then one need to look further than just the basic quantitative measures and include cooperation issues as criteria for success. The purpose of the research reported in this paper was therefore to take one step closer towards a framework of cooperation issues in so-called BOP projects, specifically in the ICT arena, with the ultimate aim of developing a way to assess factors that may present a risk to the success of these projects. This framework could serve as the foundation for further research into developing a diagnostic instrument for this purpose.
The research was conducted in 10 BOP projects involving multinational ICT companies, which were studied as separate case studies. Qualitative data was collected using the case study method and the data was analyzed for emerging patterns. It was found that problems with partner cooperation revolve around six core categories. These are explained in this paper. It is suggested that further research can serve to interrogate the proposed framework.