New Perspectives on Strategies and Contributions from Developing Country Firms and their Interaction with Governments (Academic Panel)

The current development consensus argues that sustained economic growth and employment are critical to development and poverty alleviation. Economic growth requires, amongst others, structural transformation, diversification of production, and risk taking by firms. For this to materialise, the private sector is perceived to have a central role to play in creating and sustaining this growth and the state to play a key role in engaging with businesses and directing private sector development.

While economic growth has been impressive in Asia over the last 30-40 years, African growth in the 80s and 90s was disappointing and Latin-American growth more promising. Lately, the growth trajectories have changed as e.g. the BRICS countries are losing momentum and though substantial attention has been placed on the development on the African continent, we also experience developmental slow-down here. At this crossroad, it is paramount to understand the private sector and the conditions for its success as part of understanding the chances for sustained economic growth, development and poverty alleviation.

Looking at the literature on private sector development in developing countries, limited emphasis has been given to the specific strategies of developing country firms and how firms interact with the particular market structures and institutions (formal and informal) of these countries. The firm perspective has received limited attention and the developing country firm – its strategies, its resources, its networks and relations to authorities, local communities and other firms (local as well as foreign) – has been treated as a black box.

While the literature on the role of the state and in particular state-business relations (SBRs) has been growing substantially over the last 15 years, we are still in need to learning more about the outcomes (and lack of same) of interactions between state and business. How important are industrial policies, which work/do not work, and how do we further the theoretical underpinnings in a productive direction? These are all questions that we hope to be able to have papers on and learn more from. If possible, the workshop could be a forum for discussion of the future role of the private sector in development as well as possible new research areas.


Soeren Jeppesen, Associate Professor, Copenhagen Business School, Denmark
Peter Kragelund, Associate Professor, Roskilde University, Denmark


1. Soeren Jeppesen (CBS) and Peter Kragelund (RUC): “Difficulties of Doing Business in Zambia: Firm views on a challenging business environment”

2. Jodie Thorpe (Institute for Development Studies (IDS), UK): “Beyond Growth: Understanding the Development Effectiveness of State-Business Relations”

3. Goodluck Charles (University of Dar es Salaam Business School, Tanzania): “State and Business in Tanzania: Lessons learnt and Future research topics”

Following: Plenary debate and wrap up, moderated by panel hosts