South Africa's Post-Apartheid Microcredit Experiment: Moving from State-Enforced to Market- Enforced Exploitation
Forum for Social Economics, July 2015
Posted: 6 Dec 2015
Date Written: June 5, 2015
The international donor community arrived in post-apartheid South Africa in the early 1990s to restructure the economy along neoliberal lines. One of the most important of the interventions it promoted was microcredit, which was widely seen as one of the principal self-help solutions to the exceptionally high levels of unemployment and poverty that prevailed in the Black South African community. In spite of an early ‘boom-to-bust’ episode in the early 2000s and worrying evidence it was actually further impoverishing far more Black South African’s than it was actually helping escape from poverty and unemployment, the microcredit model did not lose its international support: if anything, this support was expanded as the international development community desperately sought to ensure the survival of the microcredit model and therefore also the centrality of self-help and individual entrepreneurship as the only way out of poverty for the poor. This article shows how and why the microcredit model was supported so strongly by the international development community and South African financial community in spite of its manifestly calamitous impact on Black South African community. Overall, I conclude, microcredit can be viewed as South Africa’s own sub-prime-style disaster which, like the original US version, has mainly served to benefit a tiny financial elite working within and around the microcredit sector, whilst simultaneously destroying many of the most important pillars of the economy and society.
Keywords: microcredit, neoliberalism, South Africa, unemployment, poverty
JEL Classification: B52, D63, G2, N2, O1
Suggested Citation: Suggested Citation