The political economy of an African public enterprise: A longitudinal case study of the administrative and economic operations of the Sierra Leone Port Organization

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Abstract

In most of the post-colonial states of sub-Saharan Africa, both the size of the state bureaucracy has grown and its functions proliferated. Whatever the economic rationale of public sector organizations, they do not exist and operate in a social and political vacuum. This paper argues that they are typically an integral part of a patron clientelist political and economic system on which the foundations of government sometimes depend. The consequences for the economic performance of public sector organizations arising out of this socio-political context is now widely recognized in the growing literature on African public enterprise. Contributions to this discussion, however, have tended to be dominated by economists and public administration specialists who have generally adopted a technocratic problem solution approach. In isolating their analyses of the performance of African parastatals from an appraisal of the role of the state, this approach fails to situate adequately the problem of performance in its proper context. This paper provides a case study which examines the administrative and economic operations of the Sierra Leone Port Organization in the colonial and post-colonial states. In arguing that problems of performance of African public sector organizations also require political solutions this discussion extends the discussion beyond a technocratic focus.

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