When we see the word ecosystem, the first thing that comes to mind is nature. However, the concept of ecosystem extends beyond the boundaries of forests, oceans, and savannahs. While ecosystems in nature and business may differ in their specific characteristics and components, the fundamental concept of interconnectedness and interdependence remains at the core of both. In the business world, an ecosystem refers to a network of organisations, customers, suppliers, and partners that collaborate and contribute to shared goals and outcomes. Just as different species have distinct roles and contributions in a natural ecosystem, businesses within a business ecosystem possess unique strengths, expertise, and resources. These interconnected entities can create collective growth and value by forming strategic alliances, sharing knowledge, and leveraging complementary capabilities.


This article explores business ecosystems, diving deep into their dynamics, drivers, and game-changing implications. We will unravel the intricacies of these interconnected networks, peering into real-life examples that illustrate their transformative influence across industries. Moreover, we will examine the core elements that fuel the growth of ecosystems, ranging from technological advancements to shifting customer expectations and emerging market trends. Together, we will uncover the boundless opportunities that await those brave enough to embrace this ecosystemic mindset and pave their way to a future marked by resilience, agility, and unparalleled success.


Elements of a Business Ecosystem



1. Participants

The ecosystem includes various actors, including businesses of all sizes, investors, customers, entrepreneurs, suppliers, regulators, and other relevant entities. Each member contributes special skills, resources, and knowledge to the ecosystem. Companies are the core participants in a business ecosystem. They include established companies, startups, small and medium-sized enterprises (SMEs), and even multinational corporations. They bring specific products, services, capabilities, and resources to the ecosystem. Entrepreneurs or innovators improve the ecosystem by introducing fresh concepts, technology, and business models. They frequently launch new businesses, disrupt established markets, and stimulate ecosystem innovation. Customers are essential members of the business ecosystem. Their preferences, needs, and feedback shape the value propositions and service offerings of the other participants in the ecosystem. Suppliers deliver specialised services or raw materials to other companies in the ecosystem. They are essential to the value chain and the efficient operation of the ecosystem. Regulators have a part in shaping the commercial environment in which the ecosystem functions. They create standards, rules, and policies that affect the participants’ operations and activities. The types and roles of participants may vary depending on the specific industry, market, or ecosystem under consideration.


2. Relationships

The ecosystem’s participants interact and form relationships with one another. These relationships might be competitive, collaborative, or a combination. Like in the natural ecosystem, symbiotic relationships, or collaboration, occur between the participants. Business partnerships, strategic alliances, and joint ventures enable members to pool resources, exchange information, and collaborate to achieve common objectives.


3. Value Exchange

Value exchange is one of the main features of a business ecosystem. Participants exchange goods, services, information, and ideas, creating a flow of value within the ecosystem. The idea behind this is that as a participant in the ecosystem contributes to other participants, it also gains value in return; the relationships in the ecosystem should be mutually beneficial. This value exchange can occur through direct transactions, indirect interactions, or co-creating new products, services, or experiences.


4. Resources

Resources are a critical element of a business ecosystem. The resources comprise Intangible assets (such as intellectual property, data, expertise, and brand reputation) and tangible assets (such as money, physical infrastructure, and technology). Resources are shared and optimised by participants who contribute and use their resources within the ecosystem. Participants put their resources into the ecosystem and use them to their advantage, promoting resource sharing and optimisation.


5. Interdependence

Participants in a business ecosystem are linked together and dependent on one another. Changes in one of the elements of the ecosystem can have ripple effects on other participants. This interdependence often leads to co-evolution, where participants adapt, innovate, and evolve together in response to market dynamics, technological improvements, or governmental changes.


6. Governance

A business ecosystem needs effective governance procedures. They make sure that participants are well-coordinated and effective. They provide guidelines that control behaviour, resource distribution, and conflict resolution. Governance mechanisms may be formal (in contracts and agreements) or informal (in relationships built on mutual trust and shared values).



Case Study

MTN Group is a South African multinational telecommunications company with operations in over 20 countries in Africa and the Middle East. MTN has used the Nigerian business ecosystem well to grow its business in several ways. The company has partnered with banks to offer mobile banking services, retailers to provide airtime top-up services, and content providers to offer mobile entertainment services. These partnerships have allowed MTN to reach a wider audience and provide a more seamless customer experience. MTN has also funded some startups and incubators and provided training and support to Nigerian developers. This investment has helped to create a more vibrant and innovative technology ecosystem in Nigeria, which has benefited MTN and other businesses.


In 2017, MTN partnered with Jumia, a Nigerian e-commerce company, to offer mobile payments for Jumia customers. This partnership allowed MTN to reach a new audience of customers and Jumia to provide a more convenient payment option for its customers. In 2018, MTN invested in Andela, a Nigerian talent marketplace that connects businesses with top tech talent. This investment allowed MTN to access a pool of talented developers and to build a more innovative and agile workforce. In 2019, MTN lobbied the Nigerian government to lower the cost of data. This lobbying effort was successful, and the government reduced the cost of data by 50%. This reduction in the data price has made it more affordable for Nigerians to access the internet, which has benefited MTN and other businesses.


As a result of its ecosystem strategy, MTN has grown its business significantly in Nigeria. The company now has over 70 million subscribers in Nigeria, and it is the leading mobile network operator in the country. MTN’s success in Nigeria is a testament to the power of business ecosystems.


Why does your business need an Ecosystem Strategy?

Developing and adopting a well-designed ecosystem strategy is crucial for businesses for several detailed reasons:


Access to Resources and Expertise

A business can use an ecosystem approach to access various resources, skills, and capabilities crucial to its development and competitiveness. Companies may access shared infrastructure, technology, distribution channels, and specialised expertise by working with ecosystem participants. They improve their abilities, speed up innovation, and this access enhances their market positioning.


Market Expansion and Reach

Businesses can broaden their market reach beyond their current clientele by adopting an ecosystem approach. By engaging in partnerships and cooperation within the ecosystem, companies gain access to new client groups, penetrate new geographic areas, and reach a wider audience. These opportunities offer a chance to increase market share, diversify the market, and boost income.


Innovation and Differentiation

Ecosystem tactics encourage innovation and help companies stand out from the competition. Businesses can pool their resources, skills, and ideas with those of various ecosystem members to create unique goods, services, or business models. This joint innovation strengthens their competitive edge, draws clients, and opens fresh market potential.


Risk Mitigation and Resilience

Businesses may reduce risks and improve their resilience with a well-designed ecosystem strategy. Companies lessen their reliance on a single market or client by diversifying their partnerships and customer relationships within the ecosystem. This diversity reduces risks, gives firms access to alternative resources, and makes reacting and dealing with market disruptions easier.


Competitive Advantage

Adopting an ecosystem approach can provide companies with a sustainable competitive edge. By strategically positioning themselves within an ecosystem, businesses can access unique resources, forge collaborative partnerships, and differentiate themselves from competitors. These advantages enable companies to deliver superior value to customers, foster brand loyalty, and establish barriers to entry for competitors.


Customer-Centric Approach

Ecosystem strategies enable businesses to take a customer-centric approach by comprehensively understanding customer needs and preferences. Companies can gather insights into customer behaviour, market trends, and emerging opportunities by collaborating with ecosystem participants. This customer-centric approach allows businesses to tailor their offerings, improve customer experiences, and drive customer satisfaction and loyalty.


Agility and Adaptability

In today’s rapidly changing business landscape, businesses must be agile and adaptable to survive and thrive. Ecosystem strategies foster agility by allowing companies to respond quickly to market shifts, technological advancements, and changing customer demands. By leveraging the collective intelligence and capabilities within the ecosystem, businesses can stay ahead of the competition, identify new growth avenues, and seize emerging opportunities.


Long-Term Sustainability

A well-designed ecosystem strategy promotes long-term sustainability for businesses. By actively participating in an ecosystem, companies can contribute to the growth and development of the overall ecosystem. This collaborative approach fosters mutually beneficial relationships, shared value creation, and establishing a solid ecosystem foundation that can support businesses in the long run.


In conclusion, a well-designed business ecosystem strategy is no longer a luxury but a necessity for organisations striving for growth, innovation, and long-term success. By harnessing the power of collaboration, leveraging diverse resources, and embracing the opportunities presented by interconnected ecosystems, businesses can unlock new avenues for value creation and competitive advantage. At pcl., we understand the criticality of developing a robust business ecosystem strategy that aligns with your organisational goals and drives sustainable growth. “Our team of experts dedicates themselves to helping businesses navigate the complex ecosystem landscape, identify strategic partnerships, and design tailored strategies that maximise their ecosystem potential. With our proven track record and deep industry knowledge, we can guide you in developing a business ecosystem strategy that positions your organisation for success in the interconnected business world of today and tomorrow.


Written by:

Olasubomi Giwa