Most scholars of Africa's economic crisis focus on the dynamics of the state's institutional reconstruction, as opposed to exploring the possibility of fundamental discontinuities in the system of African states. The implications for African international relations of closer business-shadow state ties are significant. Rulers presiding over already weak state institutions will find that closer ties with foreign firms may represent the most viable response to challenges from neighboring shadow state networks. Political conflict often centers on trade and commerce, a struggle that creditors' local agents recognize. This struggle is what reformers hope to redirect into institutional channels. But the struggle is over more than just resources. The chapter differs from state-centered approaches in its use of the shadow state to refocus analyses of failures of reform on intragroup conflicts, as well as on external pressures. It examines political networks rather than the state itself.