Funded PhD Opportunities

Multinational Enterprises and Sustainable Development Goals in Sub-Saharan Africa.

  • Application end date: 11th February 2018
  • Funding Availability: Funded PhD project (EU/UK/International)
  • Department: Strategy, Enterprise and Innovation
  • PhD Supervisor: Professor Diego Vazquez-Brust, Dr Hamid Foroughi and Dr Lorenzo Todorow

Project code: BUSM3880218   

Project description

Achieving the ambitious set of Sustainable Development Goals (SDG) in Sub-Saharan Africa is a global challenge that requires concerted international action. Increased investment from multinational companies contributed to bring about economic growth in some countries in the region but the key challenge it brought alongside was rising inequality and alarming environmental deterioration, making it one of the significant conundrums facing the private-sector led development (APPR, 2013).

Economic spillovers are created by inflows of capital, new employment and taxes paid by multinationals, however they often fail to reach the most vulnerable people, disenfranchised and depending on informal economy activities for subsistence (Haglund, 2008). This failure is the result of fragile state-led governance systems (Ostrom, 2010). In countries with fragile governance systems, such as most African countries, a combination of private, public and civic regulation could be the most effective pathway to uphold labour and environmental standards while supporting social inclusion and increased economic complexity contributing to sustainable development goals (Dahan et al, 2015). Dahan et al (2015) emphasise the irreplaceable role of responsible foreign companies in solving Africa’s current and future development challenges without locking into economic trajectories that ravage natural resources and make communities more vulnerable to environmental, social and economic risks.

Unfortunately, the history of foreign firms in Africa presents systemic management concerns, tax evasion, failure to recognize local needs and engage relevant stakeholders, and violent conflict with informal economy rivals (Haglund, 2008). This suggests that unfettered operations of multinationals may not contribute to improved governance and instead translate into underwhelming sustainable development outcomes (APR,2013).

A stumbling block in the development of strategies to harness the benefits of foreign firms, has been in particular the lack of research investigating the organizational factors (i.e. ownership, corporate culture, supply chain configuration, human resource practices, risk management strategies) behind relative success and failure of foreign firms to contribute to sustainable development outcomes in developing countries and to collaborate with local stakeholders. (Vazquez-Brust et al, 2014).

Fulfilment of the role of multinationals as drivers for sustainable development, requires collaboration between multinationals and multiple host-country stakeholders, including informal economy actors, in pathways to extend knowledge-sharing activities and active promotion of sustainable technologies, social capital and economic diversification in regions and areas of operations.  However, relations between multinationals and stakeholders often become frayed and in many cases significantly damaged (Simon et al, 2010). Our understanding of the factors behind collaboration failures is still fragmentary, thus affecting the design of collaborative strategies for SDG

Therefore, this research project attempts to identify organizational capabilities, characteristics and practices of Multinational Corporation contributing to successful and context-sensitive collaboration with local stakeholders (including informal economy actors) to achieve Sustainable Development Goals in a just and ethical manner


1.To identify key areas for collaboration between Governments and foreign companies in Sub-Saharan African countries and to develop progress indicators

2.To identify the characteristics of foreign mining companies more likely to enhance contribution to SDG in the areas identified by Objective 1.

3.To Identify strategies for conflict resolution and collaboration with community actors, including those often disenfranchised by governments, working in the informal economy in close operational proximity to foreign companies (Yakovleva and Vazquez-Brust, 2014)

You will be trained in mixed methods research techniques including econometrics, case study, storytelling and ethnographies and will be based within the Faculty of Business and Law. You will have access to additional training in aspects including presentation skills, time-management and project organisation skills, reviewing literature, thesis writing, data analysis and statistics. Applicants should ideally have previous experience in one or more of these areas. 

Supervisor Profiles

Dr Diego Vazquez-Brust, Professor of Global Business Sustainability and Strategy

Dr Hamid Foroughi, Lecturer

Dr Lorenzo Todorow, Lecturer

Admissions criteria

You’ll need a good first degree from an internationally recognised university (depending upon chosen course, minimum second class or equivalent) or a Master’s degree in an appropriate subject. Exceptionally, equivalent professional experience and/or qualifications will be considered. English language proficiency at a minimum of IELTS band 6.5 with no component score below 6.0.


Informal enquires can be directed to the project supervisor, Dr Diego Vazquez-Brust at Information about living in Portsmouth and working at the university can be seen here:

For administrative and admissions enquiries please contact

How to Apply

You can apply online at You are required to create an account which gives you the flexibility to save the form, log out and return to it at any time convenient to you.

A link to the online application form and comprehensive guidance notes can be found at

When applying, please quote project code: BUSM3880218.

Interview date: TBC.

Start date: October 2018.

Applications should include

  • a full CV including personal details, qualifications, educational history and, where applicable, any employment or other experience relevant to the application

  • contact details for two referees able to comment on your academic performance

  • a research proposal of 1,000 words outlining the main features of a research design you would propose to meet the stated objectives, identifying the challenges this project might present and discussing how the work will build on or challenge existing research in the above field.

  • proof of English language proficiency (for EU and international students)

All the above must be submitted by the 11th of February 2018. 

Funding notes

UK/EU students -  The fully-funded, full-time three-year studentship provides a stipend that is in line with that offered by Research Councils UK of £14,553 per annum.

International students - International students applying for this project are eligible to be considered for the Portsmouth Global PhD scholarships.

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