Abstract: Building up Goodwill: British Business, Development and Economic Nationalism in Ghana and Nigeria, 1945 to 1977

Stephanie Decker


British companies in Ghana and Nigeria were never in doubt that they would outstay the Empire. The way in which firms carved out the legitimacy of their presence in less developed countries was heavily based on contemporary development thinking, which was pervasive with colonial as well as African nationalist governments. But trends in development economics have also influenced how academics have interpreted the role of multinational companies in poor countries, conceptualizing it as an antagonistic relationship with a constant struggle over control between host country and foreign investment. The first part of the thesis analyzes the relationship between companies and host governments, which went from initial conflict through a long phase of cooperation. The consensus on economic development, which developed in the 1940s, was seriously challenged only in a global wave of expropriations in the 1970s. During decolonization, British firms gained social capital through corporate policies that linked to official development programs, good publicity, and extensive political networking. In the late 1960s and 1970s, legislation that enforced national participation and ownership of foreign businesses in West Africa did not exclusively target Western multinationals, but was more detrimental to the interests of Lebanese and other African residents. In my thesis I argue that taking control of foreign investment was not necessarily the goal of African states, which were locked in internal postcolonial struggles over redistribution, and that research into multinationals has to go beyond an international framework and address the local dynamic of a foreign corporate presence. Development and economic nationalism also affected corporate policy toward Africans in senior management positions. The second part of the thesis focuses on British companies' relationship with their African labor force. Initially, Africanization was a type of goodwill policy, but as a result of the rising economic nationalism of the 1970s, companies were forced to proceed faster and further in giving control to local staff than they would have otherwise liked. Compared with the civil service, business was slow in giving responsibility to Africans, but differences between sectors depended not only on how much technical knowledge was required but also on how early and intensely companies had been criticized. Extensive training programs and long-term socialization were used to ensure trust and loyalty between European principals and their African agents, but over time the bargaining position of the latter was strengthened as a result of the rising economic nationalism of the 1970s.