Spatially shaped imaginaries of the digital economy

Michel Wahome, M. Graham

Research output: Contribution to journalArticle


This paper examines spatial imaginaries and their ability to circumscribe and legitimate economic practices mediated by digital technologies, specifically, the practices of digital entrepreneurship. The question is whether alternative imaginaries and typologies of digital entrepreneurship can be included in how we view digital entrepreneurship in order to stimulate new practices and imagined futures. Our case studies of digital entrepreneurs in a number of African cities illustrate that popular and academic spatial imaginaries and discourses, for example those that cast the digital economy as borderless and accessible, do not correspond with the experience of many African entrepreneurs. Furthermore, enacting the metaphoric identities that coincide with these imaginaries and their discourses is a skillset that determines which (and how) actors can participate. They reflect the inherent coloniality of the digital, capitalist discourse. The tendency in the digital economy is to regard the entrepreneur persona, as realistic and global, rather than performative and particular to the Euro-American context in which these personas have originated. Our interviews of 186 digital entrepreneurs demonstrate that digital imaginaries and metaphors cannot be neutral and apolitical. In order to be inclusive, they should evoke a sense of multiplicity, heterogeneity and contingency.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)1123-1138
Number of pages16
JournalInformation Communication and Society
Issue number8
Early online date13 Jul 2020
Publication statusE-pub ahead of print - 13 Jul 2020


  • African entrepreneurs
  • digital entrepreneurship in Africa
  • digital imaginaries
  • innovation in Africa
  • knowledge economy and development

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