Business, Politics, and the State in Africa

Challenging the Orthodoxies on Growth and Transformation

Tim Kelsall


This provocative book provides a radical new theory of the political and institutional conditions required for pro-poor growth in Africa.
In recent years Africa appears to have turned a corner economically. It is posting increased growth rates and is no longer the world's slowest growing region. Commentators are beginning to ask whether emerging from Africa is a new generation of 'lion' economies to challenge the East Asian 'tigers'? This book goes behind the headlines to examine the conditions necessary not just for growth in Africa but for a wider business and economic transformation. Contrary to neoliberal economics, it argues that governments can play an important role in this through selective interventions to correct market failures, and, controversially, that neo-patrimonial governance need not be an obstacle to improved business and economic conditions.

Drawing on a variety of timely case studies - including Rwanda, Ethiopia, Tanzania and Ghana - this provocative book provides a radical new theory of the political and institutional conditions required for pro-poor growth in Africa.

Author Bio

Tim Kelsall is an associate of the Africa, Power and Politics Programme ( and is a resource person for the Partnership for African Social and Governance Research ( He is the author of Contentious Politics, Local Governance, and the Self: A Tanzanian case study (2005), and Culture under Cross-Examination: International Justice and the Special Court for Sierra Leone (2009) as well as articles published in journals including Africa, Commonwealth and Comparative Politics, Human Rights Quarterly, the Review of International Studies and Development Policy Review.

Table of Contents

  • Introduction: growth, governance, and economic transformation in Africa
  • 1. Developmental patrimonialism?
  • 2. Tanzania: growth with poverty reduction
  • 3. Ghana: a star but static performer
  • 4. Ethiopia: rent-seekers and productive capitalists
  • 5. Rwanda: the party leads, the market follows
  • Conclusion: challenging the orthodoxies on business and politics in Africa


'It is delightful to be puzzling more over Africa's successes than its failures. It is great to read a book that both helps us to puzzle and points to the likely answers. When all that is done in clear prose, we have something well worth reading.'
Mick Moore, Professorial Fellow, Institute of Development Studies

'Tim Kelsall has written a seminal book that identifies the management of rents as the central factor determining the economic performance of African countries. Business, Politics and the State in Africa advances the debate on governance and development into a new and more productive field, and is sure to stand as a key text for the next decade.'
Alex de Waal, Executive Director, World Peace Foundation

'Revealing the evolution of Ghana's, Tanzania's, Ethiopia's and Rwanda's development policy and performance, the empirically-grounded narratives laid out in this book constitute a bracing antidote to the intellectual and ethical complacence behind the mainstream championing of "good governance" and a "level-playing-field" business environment as ways forward for development. The authors' findings and conclusions are sure to be profoundly discomfiting for practitioners - in ways which contribute to, and hopefully will help, spur the new thinking which is urgently needed.'
Brian Levy, School of Advanced International Studies, Johns Hopkins University and University of Cape Town, and formerly a World Bank governance adviser

'Recent growth trends in sub-Saharan Africa have been hailed by the proponents of neoliberalism as a strong affirmation of their policy doctrine. Tim Kelsall's volume not only challenges the triumphalism of neoliberals but points to the kinds of state and business coalitions that can generate policies towards structurally transforming African economies. The book combines solid theoretical reasoning with detailed case studies from Asia and Africa. A welcome and timely addition to the literature.'
Howard Stein, Professor, University of Michigan, Ann Arbor

'Tim Kelsall provides fresh perspectives on an old post-colonial African conundrum. He presents highly nuanced arguments grounded in empirical detail to hint at the possibility that some forms of "clientelistic politics" might actually conduce to development in African states.'
E. Gyimah-Boadi, Executive Director of the Ghana Center for Democratic Development/Afrobarometer and Professor in Political Science, University of Ghana

'Offering a fresh and sweeping perspective that provides insight into the necessary political conditions for economic development, Kelsall demonstrates how contemporary African regimes can move their economies toward more productive trajectories. Rather than reviving the familiar nostrums of good governance and best practices, this book argues that regimes (and potentially donors as well) should "work with the grain" to solve basic collective action problems that will enable economic change. This concise, compelling and readable argument will be useful for advancing the understanding of scholars and practitioners alike.'
Peter Lewis, Johns Hopkins University, School of Advanced International Studies

'This is an important and original book, which deserves wide circulation, particularly within the aid industry. Laying to rest the assumption that "good governance" is the pre-condition to development, it offers an enlightening model of how "development patrimonialism" can, under specific conditions, be harnessed for the type of sustained economic growth that may lift African countries out of their "underdevelopment".'
Patrick Chabal, author of Africa Works

'A stimulating book, well worth reading for those also grappling with the policy dilemmas involved'
Nicholas Westcott, International Affairs


Publication Date: 10 January 2013
200 pages

Product ISBNs: Paperback: 9781780324210
Hardback: 9781780323312
eBook ePub: 9781780323336
eBook PDF: 9781780323329
eBook Kindle: 9781780323343

Part of the following digital collections

Register as a peer reviewer

Help us in our mission to make the academy and academic publishing more diverse and inclusive by registering as a Zed Books peer reviewer today. It only takes 30 seconds.

Why is peer review so important?

Learn more about the various types of peer review, why it’s so important, what the social and political considerations of peer review are and how we use it at Zed Books.