Accepted Paper:

Business and Power in Kenyan capitalism  
Lara Petersen (University of Mainz)

Paper short abstract:

In this paper, I will discuss the status quo of the manufacturing elites in Kenya and their relations with the Kikuyu-dominated government.

Paper long abstract:

During the last years, Africa's economies have been growing at impressive rates. According to the World Economic Forum, the continent has achieved a real economic growth of 5.4 percent from the year 2000 to 2010, and even though growth slowed since, the African economies still grew about 3.3 percent on average. Still, the question of sustainability of this growth, which requires strong entrepreneurial activities and innovation capacity, remains mainly unanswered.

Although currently "entrepreneurship" and "state business relations" dominate the development narratives, so far little research has been done on private sector elites and their ability to influence governments to create an enabling environment for their business activities.

This paper will focus on the economic elite in Kenya - the owners and managers of large companies and their ties to the Kenyan government officials. This social group consists mainly of family dynasties on the private as well as the public side, with the Kenyan Asian Families dominating manufacturing in the region and the Kenyatta family as the most powerful politicians as well as entrepreneurs in the country. The paper will show how these elites work to secure and expand their power and wealth in the East African country.

This discussion can be seen as a continuation of the Kenyan debate, in which academics discusses the paradigms of Kenyan entrepreneurial development in the 1970s and 1990s.

The paper is based on empirical research from several field trips from 2016 to 2018 as well as literature and press analysis.

Panel Anth30
Business at work: new ethnographies of private sector dynamics in Africa