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Business and Social Crisis in Africa
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Book description

Much of the time, when confronted with a crisis of national dimensions, businesses do exactly what we expect them to do: they look to their own survival. Occasionally, however, firms in some contexts go beyond this. Based on qualitative, country-based fieldwork in Eastern and Southern Africa, Antoinette Handley examines how African businesses can be key responders to wider social and political crises, often responding well in advance of the state. She reveals the surprising ways in which business responses can be focused, not on short-term profits, but instead on ways that assist society in resolving that crisis in the long term. Taking African businesses in Kenya, Uganda, Botswana and South Africa as case studies, this detailed exploration of the private sector response to crises, including HIV/AIDS and political violence crises, introduces the concept of relative business autonomy, exploring the conditions under which it can emerge and develop, when and how it may decline, and how it might contribute to a higher level of overall societal resilience.


‘Handley effectively unpacks the conditions and contexts in which private companies have responded constructively to HIV/AIDS and election-related violence in Africa. By documenting the variation in responses by firms across national borders and over time, she disrupts canonical ideas regarding the pursuit of 'self-interest' by business.'

M. Anne Pitcher - University of Michigan

‘In this strikingly innovative work of comparative political economy, Antoinette Handley inquires into the conditions that lead business interests to furnish collective goods and to act with assertive public purpose in moments of crisis. The resulting argument furnishes important new insights on the political behaviour of firms, in Africa and well beyond. This will be a touchstone for those interested in the shifting relations between government and business in the developing world.’

Peter M. Lewis - The Johns Hopkins University

‘Is business socially responsible in Africa? That is the fundamental question Handley (Univ. of Toronto) attempts to answer in this innovative and carefully researched study.’

R. I. Rotberg Source: Choice

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