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February 16 , 2008

The Microfinance Mirage

The Politics of Poverty, Social Capital and Women's Empowerment in Ethiopia


Microfinance has long been considered a development strategy that can correct the failure of the global credit market and address the financial needs of the poor enabling them to create and run profitable business enterprises. The Microfinance Mirage argues that this neo-liberal oriented analysis overemphasises the economic argument whilst ignoring the cultural roots of inequality and subordination. Drawing on ethnographic research conducted among rural credit clients in the Northern region of Ethiopia, Esayas Bekele Geleta provides a nuanced critical analysis of microfinance challenging the common assumption that it facilitates the building of social capital, poverty reduction and the empowerment of women.

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Making a unique contribution to our further understanding of the microfinance industry the research shows that, in some cases, microfinance can result in the disintegration of pre-existing relationships and in the disruption and destruction of the livelihoods of the poor. Exploring the impact of microfinance in one of the poorest regions of sub-Saharan Africa, this book demonstrates its potential and problems and shows the complex and contradictory social and cultural environments in which projects are often located.

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