Adopting ISO Management Standards in Africa: Barriers and Cultural Challenges

  • Christian Valery Tayo TeneEmail author
  • Alexander Yuriev
  • Olivier Boiral
Part of the Measuring Operations Performance book series (MEOP)


The adoption of ISO management standards has significantly increased over the last decade in developing countries, especially in Africa. Between 2014 and 2015, the number of certifications in the African continent increased by 20% for ISO 9001 and 19% for ISO 14001. Despite this rapid increase in absolute terms, ISO certifications in Africa remain relatively underdeveloped with about 1% of the total number of ISO 9001 and ISO 14001 certifications worldwide. The objective of this study is to highlight the barriers to the adoption of ISO management standards in the African context and to analyse their appropriateness with the specificities of African cultures and organizational practices. Several barriers are highlighted: the weak institutional framework, the ineffectiveness of donor-funded programs, the lack of human and financial resources, the low participation in the development of ISO management standards, and corruption. In addition, certain specificities of the local cultures in African countries, particularly oral tradition, paternalism, hierarchical distance, collectivism, strong tolerance to uncertainty, and attachment to traditions, may be in opposition to the values embodied in ISO management standards. These specificities require an effort to adapt ISO management systems to African realities in order to promote their substantial rather than symbolic integration within organizations. This work contributes to the existing literature by analyzing the institutional, economic and cultural barriers to the adoption of ISO management standards in Africa. Implications for both professionals and public authorities are also discussed.


Barriers ISO 9001 ISO 14001 Management standards ISO certification African culture 


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© Springer International Publishing AG 2018

Authors and Affiliations

  • Christian Valery Tayo Tene
    • 1
    Email author
  • Alexander Yuriev
    • 1
  • Olivier Boiral
    • 1
  1. 1.Département de management, Faculté des sciences de l’administrationUniversité LavalQuebecCanada

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