Banking is for Others: Contradictions of Microfinance in the Ghanaian Market
Recent literature on microfinance has observed that commercial microfinance programs that achieve financial sustainability largely fail to reach the poor (Hulme 2000; Mayoux 2000; Cull, Demirgüç-Kunt, and Morduch 2007). Most studies rely on institutional explanations for this failure (Battilana and Dorado 2010; Pache and Santos 2010; Canales 2011). Using a Braudelian conceptualization of a fragmented, three-tiered capitalist world-economy, this study examines how Ghanaian market women finance their businesses within the bottom layer of the capitalist world-economy, and why, despite the availability of commercial microfinance, they continue to rely on informal finance. I argue that commercial microfinance is structurally constrained by contradictions between the profit-driven logic of the upper layers of the capitalist world-economy and the socially-embedded and subsistence-driven logic that organizes the market in which market women operate. I also show that, to the extent that commercial microfinance partially penetrates the market, it disrupts the circulation of financial resources and weakens existing social and economic networks within the community.
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