The Black Social Economy: The Caribbean Banker Ladies contesting commercial banks

Black women in the slums are usually excluded from financial programs–even microfinance ones. In my empirical study which currently examines of 491 people in Jamaica, Guyana and Haiti as it relates to informal banking systems will expand to include a comparative study of marginalized Canadians engaging in ROSCAs. These banks known as ROSCAs not only provide coping tools for livelihood survival, but banker ladies insert a program of social connectedness and political action when they organize these local resources. Banker ladies have a clear social justice agenda: to validate the business activities of marginalized people. Informal banks counter fundamentalist markets because it is focused on the collective, where Black women in the Americas are creating alternative financial programs that are squarely part of the social economy.

Collaborator Institution: UWI Mona, Jamaica; Quisqueya ONG, Haiti, Center for IDS, Guyana

Gender-Based Violence in Markets in Haiti and Sub Saharan Africa

I carried out gender equality research in agricultural value chains to understand the GBV and constraints experienced by female agribusiness owners in Cap Haitian, northern Haiti. In the pipeline are two articles, “Haiti’s “middle-men” are poor women: The madam saras” and “Gender-based violence and madam saras in the market arena.” An article, “Haiti’s Caisses Populaires: Home-grown solutions to bring economic democracy” has been published by the International Journal of Social Economy in January 2014. As of 2008, I am a researcher affiliated with the Institut Interuniversite de Recherche et du Developpement (INURED) in Port-au-Prince, Haiti, and this new project builds on the former work examining the caisses populaires system. I also carried extensive GBV and business work in DRC, Uganda, Burundi and Rwanda.

Collaborator Institution: Making Cents, INGO; Catholic University of Bukavu (DR Congo)

Business With a Conscience: Cooperatives and Small Businesses

A review of small business and cooperatives in Ethiopia.

Bacchanal Microfinance: Government-owned Microfinance in Trinidad and Tobago

Microfinance is viewed as banking upside down to bring in people excluded from formal financial systems. This ability of microfinance to raise the morale of the masses has also piqued the interest of political elites in the Caribbean. I argue that the Trinidadian microfinance sector is bacchanal (or in chaos) because the dominant government-owned micro bank’s rhetoric is to assist poor entrepreneurs; however, this does not seem to be the case. The state dominance in microfinance in Trinidad does not take the activities of small business people, who are mostly of African descent, from the shanties of east Port of Spain seriously. In fact, these economic resources are misused by political elites to satisfy party objectives over microfinance’s social and economic empowerment goals.

ROSCAs Among Black Canadians in Toronto and Montreal

ROSCAs like other actors in the social economy strive to create useful forms of social capital where people are a part of the process to decide how things occur. Clifford Geertz (1962), argue that with more modernity that these informal banks are underdeveloped forms of cooperatives or as a “middle-rung institution” that will disappear once formal banks become more accessible. However, Ardener and Burman (1996) find that Geertz’s theory that informal banks inevitably become redundant to be untrue because they find that even in saturated banking markets, informal banks are prevalent. I will build on Ardener and Burman's ideas that it is the informality of these banks that make ROSCAs distinctive. That these ROSCAs do not have to conform to a certain norm also has its appeal. And, that as immigrants move to new countries, especially in large cities in the developed world, people are finding there is a need to continue ROSCAs. I examine whether ROSCAs are more than simply economic programs and they reach people’s needs for cultural and social interaction or whether they are ways of coping when excluded within their new society.