Critical Perspectives No. 3 Business Associations in Ghana’s Economic and Political Transition
01 January, 2000
Critical Perspectives No. 3
Business Associations in Ghana’s Economic and Political Transition
The essay analyzes the impact of economic and political transition on private sector organizations and their capacity to limit the scope and power of the state. The authors use case studies of two sets of business associations: the Association of Ghana Industries (AGI) and the Ghana National Chamber of Commerce (GNCC) - representing the old business organizations, and the Ghana Union Traders Association (GUTA) and the Ghana Association of Women Entrepreneurs (GAWE) - representing the new business associations.
Hart and Gyimah-Boadi argue that since the inception of the economic liberalization policy in the mid-1980s, the state has loosened its hold on the economy and has pursued an official policy of encouraging the growth of the private sector. This, they contend, has opened new opportunities for private sector activism, especially since the introduction of political pluralism in the early 1990s.
However, following a critical review of the performance of the four associations, they conclude that the input of the business sector into economic and political discussion has remained limited. Moreover, the country’s business associations have had only a minor impact on national economic policy, broader public policy and political competition. This, they attribute to problems of organizational or institutional capacity, ineffectual advocacy and, perhaps more germane, the neo-authoritarian and corporatist culture of the government.
For a successful growth of the private sector, the authors call for a clear and genuine commitment of government, institutionalized rather than personalized partnership between government and business, and effective private sector representation. The sector, including the new ones formed under more open circumstances, is unlikely to become involved in national political and policymaking processes without significant improvements in organizational capacities and a welcoming stance from the state.