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«bath papers in interna onal development and well-being ISSN 2040-3151 Compe ng visions of financial inclusion in Kenya: The ri revealed by mobile ...»

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Beyond use for payments, whether or not people actively save in these accounts is a key issue for financial inclusion. Jack and Suri (2011) report that 81% of users use the e-money account for ‘saving’, adopting their own definition of saving as any financial instrument in which funds are held for more than 24 hours, and this contrasts with 26% of users themselves reporting this in the FinAccess 2009 survey3 (Mbiti and Weil 2011) – so contrasting outsider and user perspectives. However, there is strong evidence, especially amongst rural users, that they are most likely to ‘cash out’ their remittances (Mbiti and Weil (2011); (Morawczynski 2010; Stuart and Cohen 2011).

With policy concern to bring poor people into using formal savings accounts, Kenya has recently been the site of a number of experimental studies of savings account design. The provision of

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free accounts in one frequently cited study was found to have positive impacts on productive investments and expenditures for women, though not for men (Dupas and Robinson 2013a).

However, highly skewed uptake means that this result arises from a relatively small proportion of the participants and a further study also experienced low take up (Schaner 2011).

Experiments with commitment savings products have been used to increase fertilizer use rates (Duflo, et al. 2009), and a similar study in Malawi concluded that the greater positive impacts of a commitment compared to a voluntary savings accounts was because it enabled people to shield savings from others in their social networks (Brune, et al. 2011). A further experimental study in Kenya on savings for health also concluded that this could be explained by a mental accounting effect because the money was “out of sight”, enabling the deflection of requests from others for funds (Dupas and Robinson 2013b).

Hence, the literature offers some rather varied perspectives on the extent to which MMT is being used for “saving” but indicates improved access to social networks through which risksharing may be able to take place. Amidst the relatively low take up rates of formal savings accounts in experimental studies, it is suggested that commitment products may help shield resources from these same social networks.

2.2 The alternative logics of monetary and financial practices Despite anthropologists long enquiry into money, exchange and debt, their forms and practices still produce “bewilderments” (Guyer 2004:3), “confusions” (Graeber 2011) and “misunderstanding” (Shipton 2009). The classic debates over gifts and the extent to which these involved expectations of a return, established the social, symbolic, cultural and moral dimensions of exchange (Peebles 2010; Yan 2005) but the core analytical framework has had an evolutionary emphasis in which money is seen as operating to dissolve social ties (Bohannan 1959; Simmel 1978)). This analysis has mainly operated on a Polanyian “great transformation” spectrum moving from embeddedness to dis-embeddedness (Maurer 2005; Maurer 2006).

However, on the one hand research of the ways in which money and finance has moral and embedded dimensions have proliferated in the developed world (Granovetter 1985; Zelizer 1997). On the other, the differences in the ways systems operate between the “centre” of the financial world and its “margins” despite the ubiquitous presence of markets and commercial exchange, has led to Guyer’s observed “bewilderments” (2004). There has been recognition that informal monetary and financial conventions and practices interact with and co-construct formally regulated systems (Berry 1993; Guyer 2004; Hart 2010; Peebles 2010) and the embeddedness framework and trajectory is seen as no longer adequate to “financial worlds whose entanglements with other domains render inside and outside difficult to ascertain” (Maurer 2005:188). Moves in anthropology have therefore been towards a re-working of perspectives and a focus on monetary and financial practices and their “repertoires, pragmatics and indexicality” (Maurer 2006:30) as an alternative approach to the investigation of underlying logics.

Guyer’s study of money in West Africa (2004), has been acknowledged as seminal in this regard and opening new ground with a particular focus on Africa (Geschiere, et al. 2007; Maurer 2006).

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Theoretically her project is to attempt to see African economic practices in their own terms, going beyond etic traditions which she argues have blocked their realities from view. She shows how trading systems in the region were set up to be “other” and were never governed by institutions with the same “systematic and invariant” (ibid: 14) principles and features as in Europe. Hence local experience was spatially highly variable with a multiplicity of forms of colonial and trading engagement, such that transactions undertaken represent only moments of equivalence rather than being embedded in institutional environments in which values were stable. In those contexts money currency never had the institutional qualities of the West and trade operated across measures of value and was conducted on the logic of making “marginal gains”. In this context, ‘formal’ institutions derived from shifting structures of governance and authority are consistently unstable and she suggests a need to recognise deep differences in perspective over what money means and the way value is measured. For example, recognising that multiple registers of social valuation may be at work in an exchange in relation to the type of exchange and the social distances of the people involved.





While much literature on money and exchange offers insights into debt, Shipton argues that anthropologists have rarely put debt at the centre of their analysis. He demonstrates the intricate variety of symbolic, ritual, moral, spiritual and social factors at play in Luo “fiduciary culture” (Shipton 2007: 17) in Western Kenya through examining the ways in which a wide range of resources such as land, labour, animals, money and even humans are “entrusted” to others and returned later. This involves many entrustments which produce obligations for which there is no strict accounting in terms of the time or form of repayment. A loan in one form could be returned in political support, patronage or a job introduction or assistance in retirement - a form of social security or pension. Some of these have characteristics of Sahlinesque “generalised reciprocity” in which social distance relates to the terms involved, but, going beyond this, he shows through analysis of marriages and funerals how ‘entrustments’ operate over generations and involve relationships with ancestors. While his conclusions underline the complexity of forms, meanings and relationships, he confirms the way such circuits of entrustment and obligation form the life blood of a society: “[a] loan or entrustment (of a cow or goat for instance) can express trust, constituting a kind of social circuitry as kinetic as electricity.

In Africa, as elsewhere, a life in which all debts were settled would be a frozen life of atomized individuals – no life at all” (ibid: 208). Indeed bringing these insights to bear on the “misunderstanding” (Shipton 2009) that arose as external development financiers proffered credit on their own terms and found that it was not returned within them, he comments that “[p]eople living in the shadow of debts like these cannot be expected to consider impersonal debts to state cooperatives or banks their highest personal priorities” (ibid: 14).

Graeber’s (2011) bold theorisation of debt relations also argues that they are critical to human society. He seeks to disentangle the moral confusion he sees in contemporary Western discussion of debt by theorizing a threefold framework of social relations which have different moral logics: communism (or basic sociability); exchange; and hierarchy. Exchange – or reciprocity – “is all about equivalence. It’s a back-and-forth process involving two sides in which 5|P a g e Bath Papers in International Development and Well-Being Paper Number 30 each side gives as good as it gets……not that there is ever and exact equivalence… but more a constant process of interaction tending towards equivalence” (ibid: 103). This contrast, first, to communism or basic sociability, where there is an interaction based on need and mutual expectations and responsibility with the interaction based on the idea that someone would do something for the other when the need arose rather than that they definitely will. And second, to hierarchy where lines of “superiority and inferiority are clearly drawn and accepted by all parties” (p110) and have been institutionalised into custom and habit rather than by an obvious and arbitrary force. He points out that the in-built tendency is to see debt relations in transactions that occur in all of these spheres. He particularly criticises anthropologists for seeing the circulation of gifts in terms of exchange, as, for example in the use of the concept of “generalised reciprocity”, when they were in fact looking for something that was not exchange (see also (Yan 2005). His proposition is that: “Debt is a very specific thing and it arises from very specific situations… It requires a relationship between two people who are not fundamentally different sorts of people who are at least potential equals and who are not currently in a state of equality but for whom it is possible to set the matter straight” (ibid: 120) – so debt is a form of exchange that has not been completed and until it has there is a hierarchical relationship between the parties. When the debt is cancelled people can walk away because equality has been restored, but exchange therefore provokes human relations to be seen as implying both equality and separation. “Debt is what happens in between… carried out in the shadow of eventual equality"(p122) but achieving it destroys the reason for the relationship "just about everything human happens in between - even if this means that all such human relations bear with them at least a tiny element of criminality, guilt or shame" (p122). He reviews the history of debt through the way money in its form as credit money ebbs and flows with periods of trust and stability which enable credit relations to operate, while shifts to bullion money occur in periods of war and violence allowing value to be expropriated and relationships severed. He shows how much violence it has taken to turn human sociality into markets using many examples of the wresting of individuals from their contexts, especially for example, through various forms of slavery. His analysis revives a focus on the dimensions of hierarchy and political power in the understanding of debt. He argues that discourses of markets versus states have recast our understanding of debt relations as exchange relations when these are a false choice and markets necessarily require states for their construction and the power of violence to support them – they are two sides of the same coin (citing (Hart 1986).

The hierarchical dimensions of debt relations and the role of power and exploitation in them is a well understood point, and with respect to informal finance in developing countries is one that has been long argued in relation to moneylending and patron-client relationships – particularly in South Asia (McGregor 1994; Wood 2003). Moreover, Shipton’s observation about development finance in Kenya indicates that the Luo may not suffer the confusion Graeber sees in the West over the morality of default to external parties and hence that hierarchical relations are of a different nature. Graeber’s contribution highlights that these relations can in fact have very different moral characters. This therefore means that debt relations are not necessarily what they seem, and that instead they need to be examined for the boundaries between exchange and hierarchy.

6|P a g e Competing visions of financial inclusion in Kenya: the rift revealed by mobile money transfer Johnson Graeber’s concern with the dynamics of boundaries between equality and hierarchy resonate with historian Sara Berry’s analysis of institutional development in Africa (Berry 1993). Her interpretation focuses on the feature of “negotiability” in African economic life, arguing that it requires re-conceptualisation of the way historical process, law and social institutions interact with economic organisation. Her argument is that the struggle for resources under colonial rule involved debates over the definitions of the rules themselves. As the interpretation of local customs and norms took place to create the rules, this engaged people in debates over authority and legitimacy at all levels of society which subjected these features to change as the debates were played out. In this context when “rules, transactions and values are ambiguous and negotiable, then economic activity cannot necessarily be explained in terms of decisive choices or efforts to gain exclusive control over goods and resources” (ibid: 14). This leads to a logic in which keeping options open and finding ways to engage in and influence negotiations is more beneficial than gaining exclusive control and severing connections. The ability to influence the interpretation of meaning was affected by social status as well as material resources and underpinned the importance of social relations as a means to access productive resources. In her argument then, negotiability is the product of an institutional environment where the boundaries between exchange and hierarchy are inherently unstable.

These recent contributions to the anthropological discussion of money and debt first re-assert the diversity of relationships and meanings involved in money and financial practices despite the presence of money and markets; and second suggest a new focus on these practices as a means to theorize differently about them. Further, Graeber’s analysis suggests the importance of the moral dynamics of debt’s social relations, a proposal to which Berry’s analysis of African institutional instability offers a further dynamic perspective.



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