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Inter-Partner Learning in Asymmetric Alliances between Foreign and Indigenous Companies in the Nigerian Oil Industry

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Okechukwu Okonkwo

The emergence and growing trend of inter-firm alliances between indigenous oil companies and foreign international oil companies in the Nigerian oil industry has elicited widespread expectations of inter-partner learning and knowledge transfer through the alliances in the industry. However, the asymmetric nature of these foreign-indigenous alliances has also raised the question as to «whether or not» and «how» learning and knowledge transfer takes place in these alliances. Through explorative case study research, this work examines the learning intents and learning capacities of partner companies in selected cases of alliances as well as the types of knowledge they acquired through the alliances. The major objective is to identify the pattern of inter-partner learning and the factors affecting learning in such asymmetric alliances. Based on the empirical findings, relevant recommendations are provided for the managerial practice in the industry and the implications for research are highlighted.

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Part II: Theoretical Background 67

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Part II: Theoretical Background 3 Theoretical Explanations of Alliances This chapter presents the theoretical explanations of inter-firm alliances, focus- ing mainly on issues regarding to the forms and motives of inter-firm alliances. It begins with the delimitation and discussion of the forms and dimensions of inter-firm alliances in sub-chapter 3.1. Subsequently, the motives of alliances as explained by different theoretical perspectives are discussed in sub-chapter 3.2, while the summary of the discussions is presented in sub-chapter 3.3. 3.1 Forms and Dimensions of Alliances 3.1.1 Forms of Alliances The definition of alliances is still incoherent in the literature considering the var- ied terms used by scholars to refer to the same phenomenon. Some authors use the term “alliance”, while others prefer such terms like “cooperation”, “partner- ship” or “collaboration” to refer to collaborative form of coordination of eco- nomic activities (cf. Morschett, 2005: p. 379; and the references therein). How- ever, despite this variety of terms, most definitions in the literature are unani- mous in three essential aspects pertaining to inter-firm alliances, namely; (1.) the alliance partners are legally and economically (partly) independent, (2.) the partners voluntarily restrict their decision autonomies in certain areas of opera- tion in order to pursue goals which could be better achieved jointly than sepa- rately, and (3.) the partners explicitly (oral or written) commit themselves to the joint coordination and execution of tasks on a short-term or long-term basis (cf. Prange, 1999: pp. 160-161; Tsang, 1999: p. 212; Schwerk, 2000: p. 28; Grun- wald, 2003:...

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