Press Corporation, a large diversified Malawian company, was the personal property of Kamuzu Banda who ruled Malawi as a dictator for thirty years from independence in 1964. The history of Press is analysed in order to generate insights into the relationship between politics and economics in Africa. Comparative references are made to the experience of East Asian countries, as there are important similarities between their development paths and that of Malawi under Banda. The activities of Press Corporation were, in general, similar to parastatal companies elsewhere in Africa but, unlike the latter, Press was profitable and viable as a commercial entity. This challenges the idea that there is a compelling logic in African patrimonialist politics which necessitates parasitism on the economy. The experience of Press points to the value of such large multisectoral companies, as they can mobilise scarce local savings and channel them as venture capital into areas where investment has large external benefits, while the discipline of the profit and loss account in the company is not lost.