Scott Taylor studies role
Problems with economic development and frustrated attempts at democracy
have plagued Africa since the era of independence in the 1960s. In his dissertation,
doctoral candidate Scott Taylor, who teaches political science under a Dean's
Teaching Fellowship, uses case studies from Zambia and Zimbabwe to examine
the role private sector business associations may play in promoting economic
development and democracy.
of African business groups
Taylor spent a year in Zambia and Zimbabwe conducting research at the national
archives, newspaper archives and university libraries of each country. But
the bulk of his material came from about 130 interviews with association
members and government officials in the various ministries of agriculture,
commerce and industry.
Taylor's interest in African politics began in 1985, when he spent an undergraduate
semester in Kenya studying environmental policy. He became more interested
in the political and economic arena, including pressures at the societal
level for democracy and the resistance of the Kenyan government to any kind
of political liberalization.
After graduation, Taylor worked for four years in corporate banking before
deciding to pursue a teaching career and enrolling at Emory in 1991. During
the summer of 1992, he worked at The Carter Center, which had just been
involved in monitoring Zambia's first competitive elections in 27 years.
While there, Taylor observed a conference between Zambian government and
business leaders, and became "very interested in the role that business
played in this particular transition and that it might play in other political
transitions," he said. He also was interested in how these business
associations would try to affect economic policies to make them more favorable
to business institutions, potentially facilitating economic development.
Taylor decided to study both Zambia (formerly Northern Rhodesia) and Zimbabwe
(formerly Southern Rhodesia) because these former British colonies share
a somewhat common history, having been linked in a federation for 10 years
between 1953 and 1963.
In 1964, when Northern Rhodesia got its independence from Britain and became
Zambia, the two countries took very different paths. Zambia, which had a
much smaller white minority, nationalized most of its industry and became
increasingly authoritarian until the 1991 elections, which threw that government
out of power.
Southern Rhodesia-known simply as Rhodesia after Zambian independence-continued
to be ruled by white settlers until 1980, when an armed liberation struggle
and global sanctions forced the ruling party to concede to black majority
rule. In 1980, the country was renamed Zimbabwe and came under a democratic
At present, Taylor said, "both regimes have exhibited authoritarian
tendencies, and both countries have been plagued by conditions of economic
Taylor originally hypothesized that these now common transitions to market-based
economies and corresponding pressures for democratic government would foster
an environment in which business associations would function more openly
and productively on a national level.
He found, however, that in both countries, business associations haven't
had much effect, "because the governments have been able to insulate
themselves fairly well from these pressures from the private sector. To
a considerable degree, they are more interested in self-preservation than
production. And as a result, this has had negative implications for development."
In Zimbabwe, in particular, he found that the business associations were
much more reluctant to play any type of political role that brought them
into perceived opposition to the state. "The government there, while
nominally democratic, is in reality more illiberal or authoritarian than
the current government of Zambia," he said. "So associations are
essentially fearful of speaking out on any type of pro-democracy platform,
because they might face serious retribution from the state."
Nevertheless, Taylor sees hope for the future. "We tend to write off
Africa and certainly African economies," he said. "But I think
that the future prospects for private-sector development in Africa and for
the potential role that these institutions can play on the political side
is still there.
"If we look at European development, it was several centuries in the
making," he added. "Despite the many setbacks, I certainly don't
think Africa will take that long."
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