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UBC Theses and Dissertations

The contingency perspective : MNC-personal rule relationships in sub-Saharan Africa : the case of Lonrho Thachuk, Kimberley Lynn


This thesis attempts to reveal the relationship between multinational corporations and the personally ruled states of sub-Saharan Africa. African politics are based on private power where individual loyalties and fear compliment a system of material incentives in replacing institutions of effective government. Because individuals in a position of power rather than being guided by rules of office are motivated by expediency and the pursuit of personal and factional aggrandizement, they must often be courted, cajoled, convinced, and even bribed to agree to circumstances or procedures that are generally institutionalized processes in many industrialized states. Where effective rules for political behavior are lacking, it is difficult to predict with any accuracy in what circumstances and by what standards of conduct individuals will be governed. Thus, the most successful MNCs to operate in black Africa are generally those which are able to adapt their investment strategies readily and quickly to meet these probabilistic and changeable conditions. The hypothesis of this thesis is that rather than being deterministic relationships as dependency theory suggests, MNC-Personal rule relations are non-zero-sum, apt to alter, and therefore, based on contingency. This thesis takes one step beyond dependency theory by revealing the factors of the MNC-personal rule relationship that make it unpredictable and contingent on the vissitudes of individual human interaction. Contingency theory seeks to account for these factors by describing such relationships as a "Tango" in which parties associate with one another, in order to advance their respective interests. This thesis presents the case of Lonrho corporation, and its President, Tiny Rowland thereby revealing contingency theory to be a plausible explanation for the nature of the MNC-personal rule relationship. It is almost impossible to do business in black Africa without being attuned to politics; for in these states, politics is business. By having an uncanny ability to change strategies quickly, Rowland has demonstrated a keen perception of the nature of personal rule. Toward that end, he has expended great effort in cultivating private links and friendships with heads of state. The case of Lonrho illustrates that the inevitability of politics is the single most salient feature of commercial life in sub-Saharan Africa, and excellence at maintaining political contacts, the most important skill of successful companies. This thesis is thus an alternate way of approaching a problem that has been dealt with by other more recognized theories. And while the evidence presented is not conclusive, it does provide a useful starting point for a better understanding of how such relationships function and in what circumstances they flourish or fail.

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