[Featured Resource] Can Business Rights Alleviate Group-Based Inequality in Sub-Saharan Africa? Understanding the Limits to Reform

This week’s featured resource is Can Business Rights Alleviate Group-Based Inequality in Sub-Saharan Africa? Understanding the Limits to Reform by Scott D. Taylor from The Journal of Development Studies 2019, Vol. 55, No. 3, 420 – 436.

Despite the growth of business in Africa and celebratory assertions of an ‘Africa Rising’ in the past two decades, certain communities on the continent have been systematically excluded from pursuing or benefitting from opportunities in business and entrepreneurship, even on a small scale. These groups, which can be defined in ethnic or racial terms, have historically been denied, explicitly or implicitly, the ability to alleviate their poverty through access to entrepreneurship and, more formally, private sector development opportunities. Recent changes in the legal and regulatory environment in many countries have nominally expanded the rights and opportunities to engage in business activities, but achieving the outcome of sustainable enterprise beyond subsistence remains a formidable challenge. Although beginning about 2000 Africa became self-consciously ‘open for business’ and certain sections of black African business and capital have thrived, severe disadvantages persist that find many existing small businesspeople and potential entrepreneurs alike facing protracted competitive challenges that limit or preclude altogether their commercial activity. Defined in group terms, rather than in terms of the rights and achievements of individuals, many African communities can be considered poor and lacking full business rights: their very economic and business marginalization is inextricably linked to their ethnic identity.

More about Can Business Rights Alleviate Group-Based Inequality in Sub-Saharan Africa? Understanding the Limits to Reform:

In debunking why indigenous groups have seen so little success towards the quest for equality through economic empowerment, This resource shares learning and insights about Business rights and indigenous ethnic minorities drawing from:

  • Rwanda’s Batwa: a hunter-gatherer community residing traditionally in Rwanda and the Great Lakes region who have been systematically forced out of traditional subsistence activities and land use, whilst being continually discriminated and devalued
  • How The Basarwa of Botswana: also known as the San, who face pressures on their lands and livelihoods, but against the backdrop of a government that is more directly hostile to indigenous interests were able to use the law to challenge their alienation at the hands of the Botswana government by suing to restore the status quo ante: traditional access to land and their nomadic practices
  • Business rights and elite capture among the Baka: an indigenous community in eastern Cameroon, as a minority group’s constrained ability to avail itself of the presumed opportunities that accompany business rights.
  • Kenya’s Maasai: some of whom have successfully used contemporary business practices as a source of empowerment, including embracing community-based tourism (CBT) model as a means of both earning hard currency and engaging in conservation

You can access this resource in our library at the following link:

As always, please let us know your thoughts on this resource by commenting below.

The Featured Resource is a short profile of a key resource found in the resource library of the Global Legal Empowerment Network. These resources can be older or brand new, but they all touch on important themes within legal empowerment. If you have a resource you would like to profile with the network, upload it directly at this link or email it to community@namati.org.