Much of the time, when confronted with a crisis of national dimensions, businesses do exactly what we expect them to do: they look to their own survival. Occasionally, however, firms in some contexts go beyond this. Based on qualitative, country-based fieldwork in Eastern and Southern Africa, Antoinette Handley examines how African businesses can be key responders to wider social and political crises, often responding well in advance of the state. She reveals the surprising ways in which business responses can be focused, not on short-term profits, but instead on ways that assist society in resolving that crisis in the long term. Taking African businesses in Kenya, Uganda, Botswana and South Africa as case studies, this detailed exploration of the private sector response to crises, including HIV/AIDS and political violence crises, introduces the concept of relative business autonomy, exploring the conditions under which it can emerge and develop, when and how it may decline, and how it might contribute to a higher level of overall societal resilience.