Via Kenyan Pundit I stumbled across an excellent piece by Magatte Wade on the pitfalls of microfinance and the need to develop Africa's manufacturing sector. Wade writes:
Yes, microfinance is a good thing, especially in those parts of the world that lack industry. And yes, industries that pollute and that violate human rights, as take place all too often in China, are a bad thing. That said, as an African it is important to me that Africa develops a manufacturing base that allows Africans to become respected members of the global community who can live comfortable lives and engage in the co-creation of global culture as peers rather than as objects of pity.
A vision of Africa that is limited to tribal villages and rural agriculture is not inspiring to me, even if the tribal villages are "assisted" by the millions of dollars worth of scientific expertise that Jeff Sachs is providing them. Quite aside from the presumption of well-funded scientific experts teaching rural Africans how to farm, I am offended by the implicit notion that Sachs and company have as their highest aspiration for us that we remain cute little tribal peoples growing our crops and producing our crafts. Africa: the eternal land of National Geographic articles complete with charming natives. Why is it that black Africans are not allowed to be full participants in global society?
To be perfectly honest, I never thought of it this way. Excited by the prospect of providing impoverished entrepreneurs with the capital necessary to run their respective businesses, I failed to realize that doing so inadvertently confines these individuals to the (very limiting) roles they hold: wheat grower; cow herder; etc. While providing capital is indubitably quite valuable and, as Wade rightly notes, necessary in regions without industry, overemphasis on microfinance at the expense of the continent's manufacturing industries is quite damaging. Perhaps the emphasis should be on manufacturing first, microfinance, second. This begins to make all the more sense in light of recent findings that suggest that microfinance comes up short in many areas of human development.
My blog reflects my research interests: East Africa and the Horn; international security; African emerging markets; global financial regulation; U.S.-China relations; and the emergence of China as a major global economic and political actor. Occasional intellectual detours likely.
I am a doctoral canditate in Politics and International Relations at the University of Oxford. I hold an M.Phil in Comparative Government from Oxford (2008), and a B.A. in Political Science and Philosophy from Northwestern University (2006).