IDEAS home Printed from
   My bibliography  Save this article

Rethinking the Impact of Microfinance in Africa: ‘Business Change’ or Social Emancipation


  • Leo de Haan

    (Institute of Social Studies – Erasmus University Rotterdam, The Hague.)

  • Alfred Lakwo

    (Uganda Martyrs University – Institute of Ethics and Development Studies, Nkozi)


This article questions received wisdom that the benefits of microfinance start with poverty reduction and are subsequently followed by social emancipation. Taking the case of Uganda and by using a consensual people-centred relevance test to assess the impact of microfinance on poverty alleviation, microfinance is shown not to improve the well-being of microfinance clients much, with only marginal well-being gains achieved by clients. However, a subsequent (gender) power relations analysis reveals that in spite of these marginal well-being gains, women clients achieved more emancipation. The article therefore calls for a rethinking of the microfinance outreach campaign in Africa, and of the controversy between the adoption of a business or welfarist approach to microfinance, suggesting that social emancipation should be pursued in its own right rather than waiting for poverty reduction to occur first.Cet article remet en question l’idée préconçue selon laquelle les bénéfices de la micro-finance consistent tout d’abord en une réduction de la pauvreté, suite à laquelle s’opère une émancipation sociale. En se basant sur le cas de l’Ouganda, et en utilisant un test de pertinence consensuel qui se focalise sur les individus afin d’évaluer l’impact de la micro-finance sur l’atténuation de la pauvreté, cet article montre que les projets de micro-finance n’améliorent pas énormément le bien-être des clients, leurs gains de bien-être étant marginaux. Cependant, une analyse plus récente des rapports de genre révèle que malgré la faiblesse des gains de bien-être, les femmes clientes de micro-finance parviennent à s’émanciper davantage que les femmes non-clientes. Cet article propose donc de réexaminer la campagne d’information sur le micro-crédit en Afrique ainsi que la controverse entre l’adoption d’une approche welfariste ou commerciale à la micro-finance, suggérant que l’émancipation sociale devrait être un objectif à part entière et non pas dépendant d’une réduction préalable de la pauvreté.

Suggested Citation

  • Leo de Haan & Alfred Lakwo, 2010. "Rethinking the Impact of Microfinance in Africa: ‘Business Change’ or Social Emancipation," The European Journal of Development Research, Palgrave Macmillan;European Association of Development Research and Training Institutes (EADI), vol. 22(4), pages 529-545, September.
  • Handle: RePEc:pal:eurjdr:v:22:y:2010:i:4:p:529-545

    Download full text from publisher

    File URL:
    File Function: Link to full text PDF
    Download Restriction: Access to full text is restricted to subscribers.

    File URL:
    File Function: Link to full text HTML
    Download Restriction: Access to full text is restricted to subscribers.

    As the access to this document is restricted, you may want to search for a different version of it.

    More about this item


    Access and download statistics


    All material on this site has been provided by the respective publishers and authors. You can help correct errors and omissions. When requesting a correction, please mention this item's handle: RePEc:pal:eurjdr:v:22:y:2010:i:4:p:529-545. See general information about how to correct material in RePEc.

    For technical questions regarding this item, or to correct its authors, title, abstract, bibliographic or download information, contact: (Sonal Shukla) or (Rebekah McClure). General contact details of provider: .

    If you have authored this item and are not yet registered with RePEc, we encourage you to do it here. This allows to link your profile to this item. It also allows you to accept potential citations to this item that we are uncertain about.

    We have no references for this item. You can help adding them by using this form .

    If you know of missing items citing this one, you can help us creating those links by adding the relevant references in the same way as above, for each refering item. If you are a registered author of this item, you may also want to check the "citations" tab in your RePEc Author Service profile, as there may be some citations waiting for confirmation.

    Please note that corrections may take a couple of weeks to filter through the various RePEc services.

    IDEAS is a RePEc service hosted by the Research Division of the Federal Reserve Bank of St. Louis . RePEc uses bibliographic data supplied by the respective publishers.