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Moral Money in Sub-Saharan Africa? On ensuring ethics to drive sustainable investment


  • Kohnert, Dirk


Money rules the world. But the importance of money is far greater than conventional economic theory and its heroic equations suggest. People have invented their own forms of currency, they have used money in ways that baffle market theorists, they have incorporated money into friendship and family relationships, and they have changed the process of spending and saving. Individuals, families, governments and businesses have given money a social meaning in ways that economists could not even dream of before. A century ago, Georg Simmel, in his Philosophy of Money, pointed to various systems of exchange for goods and services that made possible the existence of incomparable value systems (land, food, honour, love, etc.) that supposedly made personal freedom possible. More recently, Ariel Wilkis brought Pierre Bourdieu's sociology of power into dialogue with Viviana Zelizer's sociology of money. He showed that money is a crucial symbol used to negotiate not only material possessions but also the political, economic, class, gender and generational ties between people. The growing threat of international terrorism has raised awareness that its existence is in itself an economic fact, as it is financed in various ways. The Moral Money Summit Africa, to be held in Johannesburg, South Africa, in November 2023, aims to unlock capital to promote sustainable growth in Sub-Saharan Africa (SSA). This is overdue, considering that multinational companies in SSA have been polluting the environment for decades and that corruption, money laundering, investments in conflict diamonds, arms and drug trafficking are widespread. The summit aims to answer questions such as: What role can Africa play in the global decarbonisation dilemma? How can ethics be ensured in commodity supply chains? How can ethical investors avoid investing in "sin stocks" such as "blood diamonds", arms and drug trafficking? However, given the unbroken power of multinational corporations and investment managers, the outcome of such summits is questionable. Comparative analyses of ESG awareness and frameworks in Anglophone, Francophone and Lusophone African countries reveal significant differences. The most powerful three global asset managers, BlackRock, Vanguard and State Street, still show "rational restraint", especially with regard to firm-specific sustainability activism. Also they can use their power to engage in "rational hypocrisy", similar to corporate

Suggested Citation

  • Kohnert, Dirk, 2023. "Moral Money in Sub-Saharan Africa? On ensuring ethics to drive sustainable investment," MPRA Paper 117779, University Library of Munich, Germany.
  • Handle: RePEc:pra:mprapa:117779

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    References listed on IDEAS

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    More about this item


    Ethical banking; ESG; International financial institutions; norm entrepreneur; international development; commercial banks; Sub-Saharan Africa; sustainable development; post-colonialism; informal sector; international trade; ODA; South Africa; Nigeria; Senegal; Angola; African Studies;
    All these keywords.

    JEL classification:

    • D63 - Microeconomics - - Welfare Economics - - - Equity, Justice, Inequality, and Other Normative Criteria and Measurement
    • E26 - Macroeconomics and Monetary Economics - - Consumption, Saving, Production, Employment, and Investment - - - Informal Economy; Underground Economy
    • F18 - International Economics - - Trade - - - Trade and Environment
    • F22 - International Economics - - International Factor Movements and International Business - - - International Migration
    • F35 - International Economics - - International Finance - - - Foreign Aid
    • F54 - International Economics - - International Relations, National Security, and International Political Economy - - - Colonialism; Imperialism; Postcolonialism
    • I31 - Health, Education, and Welfare - - Welfare, Well-Being, and Poverty - - - General Welfare, Well-Being
    • L25 - Industrial Organization - - Firm Objectives, Organization, and Behavior - - - Firm Performance
    • N17 - Economic History - - Macroeconomics and Monetary Economics; Industrial Structure; Growth; Fluctuations - - - Africa; Oceania
    • N27 - Economic History - - Financial Markets and Institutions - - - Africa; Oceania
    • O17 - Economic Development, Innovation, Technological Change, and Growth - - Economic Development - - - Formal and Informal Sectors; Shadow Economy; Institutional Arrangements
    • O35 - Economic Development, Innovation, Technological Change, and Growth - - Innovation; Research and Development; Technological Change; Intellectual Property Rights - - - Social Innovation
    • O55 - Economic Development, Innovation, Technological Change, and Growth - - Economywide Country Studies - - - Africa
    • P16 - Political Economy and Comparative Economic Systems - - Capitalist Economies - - - Capitalist Institutions; Welfare State
    • Z13 - Other Special Topics - - Cultural Economics - - - Economic Sociology; Economic Anthropology; Language; Social and Economic Stratification

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