INAF-491 Business Politics in Africa
Spring for 2017-2018
Many scholars and practitioners in the developing world once held that the private sector was peripheral, if not antithetical, to development goals, preferring instead statist or nationalist approaches. Today, a more nuanced approach to development accounts for the states need to rely on resources and information provided by a viable private sector in order to formulate and implement effective economic policies. While hardly a paragon of “mature capitalism,” the increased relevance of African private sectors – spurred in part by marked changes in democratic and economic institutions beginning in the 1990s – is today undeniable. We can now at least begin to talk about African private sectors on their own merits, rather than in terms of their parasitism vis-à-vis the public sector. Private sector activity in Africa is also deeply influenced by external actors and the culture of business is both more diverse and dynamic than appreciated. How have business politics and the politics of business changed in the last two decades? This course aims to address these essential questions by investigating how business in Africa has been historically misconstrued, as well as through examination of business prospects. This course will examine the changing role and perception of the private sector in African development, and the interactions of businesspeople and business organizations with the African state. Certainly, the private sector role in Africa has been both positive and negative. We will explore the various tradeoffs and the implications for development and democracy, drawing on numerous country and firm cases from around the continent.
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