Sunday, 29 March 2009

Economic Development equals Social Development

In a country like Nigeria, where most wealth is held by a tiny minority, you’ve got to wonder how much impact enterprise development really has on poverty alleviation. This is a view that was mirrored by a few authors in the Africa section at Foyles, which I got the chance to browse on a recent lazy afternoon in London. Corruption plays a part in this, but so does the standard way of doing business in these countries, where access to key players means nearly everything.

Microfinance and similar initiatives play a large role in “broadening the ownership of businesses” (Alitheia’s mission), but such initiatives represent a fraction of the total economy. The above statement is largely portrayed as “conventional wisdom” amongst my peers and there are, of course, plenty of examples to support it. In my frustration with the limited scale of social enterprise, the sectors continued drive towards paternalism and my urge to help by enabling people to make a life of their own has driven my thinking the same way as my peers. Unfortunately that’s all I have to go on right now. Initial research shows me that the field is overly political, which tends to distort facts. If anybody who reads this has a clue where to look for reasoned qualifications of the above statement or comparative figures, I’d be delighted to hear from you.

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