Skip to main content

Lonrho in Africa: The Unacceptable Face of Capitalism or the Ugly Face of Neo-Colonialism?


Under the leadership of Tiny Rowland, Lonrho became the largest and most widely established company in post-independence Africa. Using newly available materials mainly from the National Archives London, this article investigates the activities of Lonrho in Africa and the company’s relationship with the British government during the period. Although Prime Minister Edward Heath publicly labeled the company as the “unacceptable face of capitalism,” evidence presented in this article suggests that this was at best a normative assertion. The subsequent Department of Trade and Industry investigation of Lonrho was carefully guided by the British government with the objective of protecting wider British interests in Africa. Evidence in this article therefore contradicts the view that the British government did not work “in concert” with British businesses in Africa once political independence became imminent.

Hide All
Bower, T. Tiny Rowland: A Rebel Tycoon. London: Heinemann, 1993.
Cronje, S., Ling, M., and Cronje, G.. Lonrho: Portrait of a Multinational. Harmondsworth, UK: Penguin, 1976.
Ezera, K. Constitutional Developments in Nigeria. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1964.
Fieldhouse, D. Black Africa 1945–1980: Economic Decolonization and Arrested Development. London: Allen and Unwin, 1986.
Fieldhouse, D. Merchant Capital and Economic Decolonization: The United Africa Company, 1929–1987. Oxford: Clarendon Press, 1994.
Grant, T. and Pederson, J.. International Directory of Company Histories, vol. 21. Detroit: St. James Press, 1998.
Hall, R. My Life with Tiny: A Biography of Tiny Rowland. London: Faber and Faber, 1987.
Jarrett, A. The Underdevelopment of Africa: Colonialism, Neo-Colonialism and Socialism. New York: University Press of America, 1996.
Leys, C. Underdevelopment in Kenya: The Political Economy of Neo-Colonialism. London: Heinemann, 1976.
Nkrumah, K. Neo-Colonialism, the Last Stage of Imperialism. London: Thomas Nelson and Sons, 1965.
Stockwell, S. The Business of Decolonization: British Business Strategies in the Gold Coast. Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2000.
Tignor, R. Capitalism and Nationalism at the End of Empire: State and Business in Decolonizing Egypt, Nigeria and Kenya, 1945–1963. Princeton, NJ: Princeton University Press, 1998.
White, N. British Business in Post-Colonial Malaysia, 1957–1970: Neo-Colonialism or Disengagement? London: Routledge Publishers, 2004.
Boyd, B., Haynes, K., and Zona, F.. “Dimensions of CEO-Board Relations.” Journal of Management Studies 48 (2011): 18921923.
Brautigam, D. and Knack, S.. “Foreign Aid, Institutions and Governance in Sub-Saharan Africa.” Economic Development and Cultural Change 52, no. 2 (2004): 255285.
Bridge, J. “The United Nations and English Law.” International and Comparative Law Quarterly 18, no. 3 (1969): 689717.
Cain, P. and Hopkins, A.. “The Political Economy of British Expansion Overseas, 1750–1914.” The Economic History Review 33, no. 4 (1980): 463490.
Cammack, D. “The Logic of African Neo-Patrimonialism: What Role for Donors?Development Policy Review 25 (2007): 599614.
Charney, C. “Political Power and Social Class in the Neo-Colonial African State.” Review of African Political Economy 38 (1987): 4865.
Dumett, R. “Sources for Mining Company History in Africa: The History and Records of the Ashanti Goldfields Corporation Ghana Limited.” The Business History Review 82, no. 3 (1988): 502515.
Eriksen, K. and Eriksen, K.. “Zambia: Class Formation and détente.” Review of African Political Economy 9 (1977): 426.
Executive Intelligence Review Investigative Team. “The ‘Tiny’ Rowland File.” Executive Intelligence Review 16 (1989): 4547.
Executive Intelligence Review Investigative Team. Tiny Rowland: The Ugly Face of Neo-Colonialism in Africa. Washington DC: Executive Intelligence Review, 1993.
Flint, J. “Planned Decolonization and Its Failure in British Africa.” African Affairs 82 (1983): 389411.
Frynas, J. and Wood, G.. “Oil and War in Angola.” Review of African Political Economy 90 (2001): 587606.
Haag, D. “Mechanisms of Neo-Colonialism: Current French and British Interests in Cameroon and Ghana.” Institut Catala Internacional Working Paper No. 2001/6, 2001.
Handley, A. “Business, Government and the Privatization of the Ashanti Goldfields Company in Ghana.” Canadian Journal of African Studies 41, no. 1 (2007): 137.
Hodges, N. “Neo-Colonialism: The New Rape of Africa.” The Black Scholar 3 (1972): 1223.
Hopkins, A. “Economic Imperialism in West Africa: Lagos, 1880–92.” The Economic History Review 21 (1968): 580606.
Kahler, M. “Political Regimes and Economic Actors: The Response of Firms to the End of Colonial Rule.” World Politics 33 (1981): 383412.
Kew, D. “Building Democracy in 21st Century Africa: Two Africas, One Solution.” The Whitehead Journal of Diplomacy and International Relations (Winter/ Spring 2005): 149161.
Kraus, J. “Capital, Power and Business Associations in the African Political Economy: A Tale of Two Countries, Ghana and Nigeria.” The Journal of Modern African Studies 40 (2002): 395436.
Larmer, M. “What Went Wrong? Zambian Political Biography and Post-Colonial Discourses of Decline.” Historia 51 (2006): 235256.
Libby, R. “Transnational Class Alliances in Zambia.” Comparative Politics 15, no. 4 (1983): 379400.
Martin, G. “Africa and the Ideology of Eurafrica: Neo-Colonialism or Pan-Africanism?The Journal of Modern African Studies 20 (1982): 221238.
McDougal, M. and Reisman, W.. “Rhodesia and United Nations: The Lawfulness of International Concern.” The American Journal of International Law 62 (1968): 119.
Meyers, B. “OAU’s Administrative Secretary General.” International Organization 30 (1976): 509520.
Mlambo, A. “From the Second World War to UDI: 1940–1965.” In Becoming Zimbabwe: A History from the Pre-Colonial Period to 2008, edited by Raftopoulos, B. and Mlambo, A., 75114. Harare, Zimbabwe: Weaver Press, 2009.
Munslow, B. “Lonrho: There Is Nothing Tiny about Rowland.” Crime, Law and Social Change 21 (1994): 381385.
Nwaubu, E. “Getting Behind a Myth: The British Labour Party and Decolonization in Africa, 1945–1951.” The Australian Journal of Politics and History 39 (1993): 197216.
Nye, J. “Corruption and Political Development: A Cost Benefit Analysis.” The American Political Science Review 61 (1967): 417427.
Onoge, F. and Gaching’a, K.. “Mazrui’s ‘Nkrumah’: A Case of Neo-Colonial Scholarship.” Transition 30 (1967): 2527.
Phillips, A. “The Concept of ‘Development’.” Review of African Political Economy 8 (1977): 721.
Pitcher, M. “Recreating Colonialism or Reconstructing the State? Privatization and Politics in Mozambique.” Journal of Southern African Studies 22, no. 1 (1996): 4974.
Rao, G. “Neo-Colonialist Aid and Trade.” Social Scientist (1976): 5761.
Rood, R. “Nationalization and Indigenization in Africa.” Journal of Modern African Studies 14 (1976): 427447.
Schirmer, D. “Anti-Imperialism and Neo-Colonialism.” Science and Society 35 (1971): 219226.
Shen, W. “The Dynamics of CEO-Board Relationship: An Evolutionary Perspective.” Academy of Management Review 28 (2003): 466476.
Shohat, E. “Notes on the ‘Post-Colonial’.” In Third World and Post-Colonial Issues (Social Text Number 31/32, 1992): 99113.
Smedt, J. “’No Raila, No Peace!’ Big Man Politics and Election Violence in the Kibera Grassroots.” African Affairs 108 (2009): 581598.
Smith, T. “A Comparative Study of French and British Decolonization.” Comparative Studies in Society and History 20 (1978): 70102.
Special Correspondent. “The Strange Case of Lonrho.” Africa Report 19 (1974): 4045.
Stockwell, S. “Political Strategies of British Business During Decolonization: The Case of the Gold Coast/Ghana, 1945–1957.” Journal of Imperial and Commonwealth History 23 (1995): 277300.
Stockwell, S. “Trade, Empire, and the Fiscal Context of Imperial Business During Decolonization.” Economic History Review 57 (2004): 142160.
Tanzi, V.” Corruption Around the World: Causes, Consequences, Scope and Cures.” IMF Staff Papers 45 (1998): 559594.
Thachuk, K. “The Contingency Perspective: MNC-Personal Rule Relationships in Sub-Saharan Africa—the case of Lonrho.” Master’s thesis, Department of Political Science, University of British Columbia, 1989.
Tickner, V. “International-Local Capital: The Ivory Coast Sugar Industry.” Review of African Political Economy 8 (1977): 119121.
Tignor, R. “Decolonizing and Business: The Case of Egypt.” The Journal of Modern History 59 (1987): 479505.
Uche, C. “A Threat to Historical Research.” Archives: the Journal of the British Records Association 25 (2000): 136141.
Uche, C. “Oil, British Interests and the Nigerian Civil War.” Journal of African History 49 (2008): 111135.
Uche, C. “British Petroleum vs. the Nigerian Government: The Capital Gains Tax dispute, 1972–9.” Journal of African History 51 (2010): 167188.
Uche, C. “British Government, British Businesses and the Indigenization Exercise in Post-Independence Nigeria.” Business History Review 86 (2012): 745771.
Vines, A. “Oil, Diamonds and Death.” The World Today (March 2002): 1920.
Vysotskaia, N. “The Struggle of the African Peoples against Neo-Colonialism.” The International Journal of Politics 6 (1976–77): 1249.
Wai, D. “Domestic Policy and Foreign Relations Under Nimiery.” African Affairs 78 (1979): 297317.
Werlin, H. “The Consequences of Corruption: The Ghanaian Experience.” Political Science Quarterly 88 (1973): 7185.
Westphal, J. “Collaboration in the Boardroom: Behavioral and Performance Consequences of CEO-Board Social Ties.” Academy of Management Journal 42 (1999): 724.
White, N. “The Business and Politics of Decolonization: The British Experience in the Twentieth Century.” Economic History Review 53 (2000): 544564.
White, N. “British Business Groups and the Early Years of Malayan/Malaysian Independence, 1957–1965.” Asia Pacific Business Review 7 (2000): 155176.
White, N. “The Survival, Revival and Decline of British Economic Interests in Malaysia, 1957–1970.” Twentieth Century British History 44 (2003): 222242.
Daily Mail (UK)
Economist (UK)
Guardian (UK)
News Statesman (UK)
Sunday Times (UK)
Department of Trade. “Lonrho Limited, Investigation under Section 165 (b) of the Companies Act 1948, Report by Allan Hayman QC and Sir William Slimmings, CBE, CA (inspectors appointed by the Department of Trade).” London, 1976.
Hansard (UK) House of Commons parliamentary debates (various dates).
Lonrho Limited, Annual Report (various years).
Monopolies and Mergers Commission, Lonrho Limited and Scottish and Universal Investments Limited and House of Frazer Limited. “A Report on the Proposed Merger of Lonrho and Scottish and Universal Investments and on the Resulting Merger Situation Between Lonrho and House of Frazer Limited.” London: Her Majesty’s Stationary Office, March 15, 1979.
National Archives (NA) London (various files).
Recommend this journal

Email your librarian or administrator to recommend adding this journal to your organisation's collection.

Enterprise & Society
  • ISSN: 1467-2227
  • EISSN: 1467-2235
  • URL: /core/journals/enterprise-and-society
Please enter your name
Please enter a valid email address
Who would you like to send this to? *


Full text views

Total number of HTML views: 17
Total number of PDF views: 115 *
Loading metrics...

Abstract views

Total abstract views: 574 *
Loading metrics...

* Views captured on Cambridge Core between September 2016 - 23rd July 2018. This data will be updated every 24 hours.