Abstract: The Colonial Legacy in African Management? West Africa (1950s-1970s) and South Africa (1990s-2000s)

Stephanie Decker


The colonial legacy in Africa has determined the development of management on the continent, as the comparison between the historical case of Africanization in Ghana and Nigeria in the 1950s, 1960s, and 1970s with South Africa in the 1990s and 2000s highlights. The replacement of white managers with blacks who could previously occupy only subordinate positions in the colonial or Apartheid system experienced similar problems in these countries, even though Ghana and Nigeria were not settler colonies. In the quest for legitimacy in the eyes of local elites and the international community, companies are tempted to resort to ineffectual window-dressing or "tokenism," or failing to develop the talent and abilities of black staff, who often face disapproval not only from white but also from less successful black colleagues. In case of successful promotion of black managers, skilled white personnel were often driven away by the lack of opportunities for advancement for them, while capable black staff were frequently poached with better offers by competitors. The creation of a black elite with significantly higher income than the majority population could also be socially divisive and undermine corporate social responsibility claims.