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BANKING IN THE BUSH: WAITING FOR CREDIT IN SOUTH AFRICA'S RURAL ECONOMY

Abstract
ABSTRACT

Drawing on fieldwork in a rural area of KwaZulu-Natal, this article shows how people experience government and other institutions in a patchwork of encounters spread out over time, disjointedly, and via various intermediaries. Aspirations change over time and in response to these encounters. Specifically, the article focuses on the setting up of a government-regulated microfinance institution. I consider the divergence between state-led models of ‘entrepreneurship’ and the practice of individuals' engagement with the organization and their own expectations about it. One government stipulation was that the bank demonstrated its effective operation through regular inflows and outflows of cash, prior to paying out any loans. As such, members were encouraged to invest money in order to qualify for a loan at a later stage. I describe the factors that enhanced or inhibited the willingness of members to invest in the bank, arguing that these strategies were influenced not only by existing levels of economic vulnerability experienced by individuals, but also by particular expectations of the bank, including its perceived reliability, stability and degree of formality vis-à-vis existing conceptions about banking. The example demonstrates that processes of formalization are often partial and incomplete. Rather than examining them in the narrow terms of success or failure, the article focuses on the intersection of moral and economic actions that emerge in the prolonged states of limbo that they create.

RÉSUMÉ

S'appuyant sur des travaux de recherche menés dans la région rurale du KwaZulu-Natal, cet article montre comment les personnes vivent l’État et d'autres institutions dans une multiplicité de rencontres étalées dans le temps, sans cohérence, et au travers d'intermédiaires divers. Les aspirations évoluent avec le temps et en réaction à ces rencontres. L'article traite en particulier de la création d'une institution de microfinance sous le contrôle de l’État. L'auteur étudie la divergence entre les modèles d'entreprise dirigés par l’État et la pratique des particuliers de nouer le contact avec l'organisation, et les attentes qu'ils en ont. L’État exigeait entre autres que la banque fasse la preuve de son bon fonctionnement à travers des entrées et sorties d'argent régulières, avant d'octroyer des prêts. À ce titre, les adhérents étaient encouragés à investir de l'argent afin de remplir les conditions requises pour l'octroi d'un prêt plus tard. L'auteur décrit les facteurs qui ont renforcé ou diminué la propension des adhérents à investir dans la banque, en soutenant que ces stratégies étaient influencées non seulement par les niveaux de vulnérabilité économique éprouvés alors par les personnes, mais également par les attentes particulières de la banque, y compris sa perception de la fiabilité, de la stabilité et du degré de formalité vis-à-vis des conceptions existantes sur l'activité bancaire. Cet exemple démontre que les processus de formalisation sont souvent partiels et incomplets. Plutôt que de les examiner en termes restreints de succès ou d’échec, l'article s'intéresse à l'intersection des actions morales et économiques qui apparaissent dans les états d'incertitude prolongés qu'ils créent.

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References
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Africa
  • ISSN: 0001-9720
  • EISSN: 1750-0184
  • URL: /core/journals/africa
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