Microcredit in Uganda: Fundamental Reform or Just another Neoliberal Policy?
Widespread global initiatives aimed at improving conditions for the world’s poor have frequently begun with the vision of just a few people. Examples are numerous but in this paper we focus on micro-enterprise credit (microcredit). In the case of microcredit, a widespread movement has placed projects in many countries throughout the developing world. Microcredit is typically made available to women who would otherwise not have access to loans on reasonable terms. While some view microcredit as a revolutionary means of improving both the lives of women and the poor more generally, others argue it is a band aid approach to development, rooted in a neoliberal logic that does very little in terms of enacting real, long-term change. These arguments, however, are often based on evidence from Asian or other non-African countries and so don’t account for different models of microcredit or cultural context in shaping outcomes for women and their families. We address these issues through a qualitative study of three microcredit groups in the east African country of Uganda. Based on qualitative interviews, we argue that microcredit holds a number of possibilities for women and their communities including healthier families and educated children as well as more intangible benefits such as feelings of solidarity and self-confidence. While our interviews suggest a number of benefits of micro-enterprise credit, we recognize that such programs are not the single solution to poverty. Ultimately, though, we argue that the negatives do not dispel the benefits that can result for many women.
Keywords: Gender, Microcredit, Africa, Development, Neoliberalism, Poverty