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The interface of networking and 'wasta' in an Arabic context

Sefiani, Yassine and Davies, Barry and Bown, Robin and Kite, Neilson (2016): The interface of networking and 'wasta' in an Arabic context.

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ABSTRACT Purpose - The aim of this study is to uncover particular and significant methods of pursuing business connections, in the small manufacturing businesses of Tangier.

Prior Work - The significance of networking and its impact on the performance of SMEs was revealed in a number of studies. There have been significant studies on the structural, relational, and cognitive dimensions of social capital in value creation. It can be noted that there are potentially significant differences in the concept of networking particularly those that are influenced by Arabic culture.

Approach - A two-stage design, which incorporated both quantitative and qualitative approaches, was employed in this study. Approaches were employed in succession with the findings from the quantitative phase informing the qualitative phase. Initially, a paper and online survey questionnaire was administered to a population of 365 industrial SMEs to gain some insights on the perceptions of owner-managers of the impact of networking on business performance. Following the quantitative phase, fifteen in-depth face-to-face semi-structured interviews were conducted with selected owner-managers of SMEs, forming a judgmental selection, to explore their experiences, beliefs, and attitudes with respect to networking factor.

Results - Both quantitative and qualitative phases of the study found that networking was a significant factor in influencing the success of SMEs. The concept of wasta, the Arabic word for connections, emerged from the qualitative phase. Findings show that using wasta, through politico-business networks is important since it enables access to current information that is crucial for the success of SMEs. The concept of wasta was also mentioned in relation to financial resources and suppliers. Findings revealed that strong relationships with suppliers enable firms to get financial resources in the form of trade credits. Furthermore, the relationship between wasta and human resources was also revealed. Findings showed that owner-managers use their network relations through wasta in order to recruit their staff.

Implications - The findings of this study add to the understanding of networking in Arabic countries with the importance of wasta in an economy that functions on relationships. The findings of this study could therefore be useful to international managers to assist their intercultural effectiveness by adjusting to culture-specific networking in Tangier.

Value - This study supports previous findings of Hutchings & Weir (2006) and contributes additional evidence that suggests the significance of wasta and its impact on SME success.

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