The current economic crisis and political liberalization process in Africa have led in many cases to a partial withdrawal of the state, creating more space for autonomous forms of organization and action. Most analyses of these developments focus only on the national level, overlooking forms of organization and action at regional and local levels. This monograph tries to fill this gap. It first examines the impact of the current economic crisis on one of the oldest private agro-industrial enterprises in Cameroon, the Plantations Pamol du Cameroun Ltd, or Pamol, as it is still popularly called. It is a subsidiary of the giant Unilever company located in the South West Province of Anglophone Cameroon. The Francophone-dominated Cameroonian state denied any assistance to the ailing company during the crisis, leading to Pamol's liquidation in 1987. Interestingly, the newly appointed liquidator then decided to run the company as an ongoing business until a prospective buyer was found. The book also assesses the roles played by Pamol's trade unions and contract farmers'cooperatives, as well as by newly created regional elite groups and associations, in defence of their members' interests. Their capacity to act appears to be strengthened by the current political liberalization process.
Piet Konings is a senior researcher at the African Studies Centre in Leiden. He has conducted extensive research on the state, labour and trade unionism in Ghana and Cameroon.