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Banking on the poor: savings, poverty and access to financial services in rural South Africa

Dallimore, Anthea (2013) Banking on the poor: savings, poverty and access to financial services in rural South Africa. PhD thesis, The London School of Economics and Political Science (LSE).

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Abstract

Microfinance has gained prominence as a policy option for addressing poverty. Although microfinance has a long history, its growing appeal is usually associated with the attention given to the Grameen Bank of Bangladesh, which pioneered group-based lending to poor women. Following the ‘successes of Grameen and the promotion of ‘cloned’ institutions, advocacy for microfinance has focussed primarily on microcredit. Consequently, microfinance as savings, insurance, and other forms of financial intermediation received far less attention. It was believed that microcredit was a more reliable and faster means to achieve poverty reduction, especially through supporting the entrepreneurialism of the poor. Microcredit then became a mantra of the microfinance sector, increasingly identified as its ‘raison d’être’ and the justification for the investment of billions for dollars. This thesis focuses on the relationship between microfinance and poverty. It puts savings at the centre of the research through an analysis of a savings-led financial services co-operative known as the ‘Village Banks’ in South Africa. The research considers the asserted link between microfinance and poverty from both a theoretical and empirical interrogation. It questions the limited engagement that the microfinance literature has had with the various theories on poverty and attempts to formulate a more nuanced understanding of relations between the two. The empirical contribution is a mixed method of qualitative analysis, in the form of focus groups held in four different Village Bank communities, and quantitative analysis from an original panel of households in one community. The thesis argues that a savings-led model of microfinance has the ability to contribute to the challenges of poverty reduction more than is currently acknowledged. It will also argue that, when provided with the necessary support, member-owned financial institutions, such as the Village Banks, offer a potential solution to addressing the inherent challenges of providing low-cost banking services in rural areas.

Item Type: Thesis (PhD)
Additional Information: © 2013 Anthea Dallimore
Library of Congress subject classification: H Social Sciences > HC Economic History and Conditions
Sets: Departments > Geography and Environment
Supervisor: Jones, Gareth
URI: http://etheses.lse.ac.uk/id/eprint/685

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