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. <br/> Fernch<br/> Cet article remet en question l’idee preconc ̧ue selon laquelle les benefices de la micro-finance consistent tout d’abord en une reduction de la pauvrete, suite a laquelle s’opere une emancipation 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’evaluer l’impact de la micro-finance sur l’attenuation de la pauvrete, cet article montre que les projets de micro-finance n’ameliorent pas enormement le bien-etre des clients, leurs gains de bien-etre etant marginaux. Cependant, une analyse plus recente des rapports de genre revele que malgre la faiblesse des gains de bien-etre, les femmes clientes de micro-finance parviennent a s’emanciper davantage que les femmes non-clientes. Cet article propose donc de reexaminer la campagne d’information sur le micro-credit en Afrique ainsi que la controverse entre l’adoption d’une approche welfariste ou commerciale a la micro-finance, suggerant que l’emancipation sociale devrait etre un objectif a part entiere et non pas dependant d’une reduction prealable de la pauvrete.

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The European Journal of Development Research
International Institute of Social Studies of Erasmus University (ISS)

Lakwob, A., & de Haan, L. (2010). Rethinking the Impact of Microfinance in Africa: ‘Business Change’ or Social Emancipation. The European Journal of Development Research, 22(4), 529–545. doi:10.1057/ejdr.2010.32