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Abstract

The literature on 'conflict-sensitive' business practices has burgeoned in recent years. Yet there remains a critical knowledge gap on the value of incorporating 'conflict-sensitivity' systematically to business environment reforms (BER) advanced by the public sector and its international partners. Wars and protracted conflicts reshape market environments in deeply distortive ways. The resulting transformation often enlarges the informal sector at the expense of formal state institutions, while it also reinforces high dependence on foreign aid and investments. Simultaneously, policy communication channels also become disrupted and unreliable. The existing BER literature remains generally insensitive to these peculiarities. Drawing on a case study of Sierra Leone, this article explores the implications of these omissions and shows that BER may even bring about adverse effects when the peculiarities of these conflict-generated market distortions are neglected. In order to avoid negative repercussions, conflict-sensitive BER needs to take into account the multiplicity of business environments and the heterogeneity of business actors operating within conflict-affected nations.

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