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This is how we bury our dead: an institutional analysis of microinsurance and financial inclusion in South Africa

Paek, Christopher (2017) This is how we bury our dead: an institutional analysis of microinsurance and financial inclusion in South Africa. PhD thesis, The London School of Economics and Political Science (LSE).

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Identification Number: 10.21953/lse.5vvorm6awnkn

Abstract

South African insurance companies have made substantial in-roads into the low-income segments of the insurance market. The strength of microinsurance—insurance products designed specifically for low-income individuals—has been fueled almost exclusively by the sale of funeral insurance products, an unsurprising trend considering the immense cultural value that many South Africans place on funerals. Insurance companies have managed to achieve scale by tapping into community-based infrastructures, which serve as low-cost distribution channels for these products. The incursion of “insurance culture” into this space has thus resulted in a market ecosystem in which formal and informal institutions are in fluid states of tension and cooperation. Building on institutional theory and adopting ethnography as its primary methodological approach, this thesis examines the institutional dynamics underpinning South African microinsurance markets. Based on fieldwork I conducted from June 2015-April 2016 (based primarily in Cape Town and the neighboring township of Khayelitsha), my thesis will highlight the ways in which formal and informal institutions interact to produce regulatory outcomes that enable and/or constrain individual actors. While these institutional structures shape individual decision-making with regard to risk management, I also consider the ways in which individuals exercise agency to navigate shifting institutional landscapes and effect change in underlying structures. Thus, this thesis contributes to the debates on microinsurance, as well as on financial inclusion more broadly, reframing them within this complex interplay between institutions and actors.

Item Type: Thesis (PhD)
Additional Information: © 2017 Christopher Paek
Library of Congress subject classification: H Social Sciences > HC Economic History and Conditions
Sets: Departments > International Development
Supervisor: Meagher, Kate
URI: http://etheses.lse.ac.uk/id/eprint/3677

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