Dissertation Abstracts

Assessing Development Finance Initiatives on Poverty Alleviation and Empowerment of Women in South Africa: A Comparative Study of State Development Finance and Microfinance

Author: Mbithi, Jane M, jane8404@gmail.com
Department: Sociology
University: University of the Witwatersrand, South Africa
Supervisor: Michelle Williams
Year of completion: In progress
Language of dissertation: English

Keywords: Development Finance , Poverty , Financial Inclusion , Empowerment
Areas of Research: Poverty, Social Welfare and Social Policy , Women in Society , Economy and Society


The need for development finance has grown considerably in Africa, given the significant development challenges that continue to plague the continent. Over the years, the literature on development finance in South Africa has focused on foreign aid but has rarely addressed other forms of development finance. This study aims to explore other forms of development finance in regards to its role on poverty reduction and women’s empowerment. While many scholars argue that development finance boosts economic growth and reduces income inequality and poverty, there is a lack of empirical evidence that supports this view, particularly in the South African context. South Africa is one of the most unequal countries in the world and at the heart of high inequality lays the inability to create employment opportunities on a large scale. These findings emphasize the pressing need for functional development finance initiatives to address the inequalities created by the former apartheid system. The study will explore the impact of state development finance interventions as well as microfinance initiatives in providing financial alternatives for poor and low-income earners.
Despite the post-apartheid government’s efforts to address the high levels of poverty, poverty remains a major challenge in South Africa and most of those affected are Black women. The study will not only shed light on the development arena where models designed to combat poverty have received enormous debate, but will also reveal which finance model is the most sustainable in improving the quality of life of women and particularly black women. Furthermore, the fundamental question that the study raises is: what potential do these institutions have to improve the integration and participation of black women in and to ensure that black women are able to actively contribute to their development through access to finance? The study will employ a qualitative research design and will comprise of four cases – two cases of state development finance initiatives and two cases of microfinance initiatives in South Africa. The state development cases that will be explored are the Isivande Women’s Fund (IWF) and the Small Enterprise Finance Agency (SEFA), while the microfinance cases will be the Small Enterprise Foundation (SEF) and Phakamani Foundation. The participants will be black women who have received funding from these institutions and who are currently running a business. Face-to-face interviews will be conducted with the participants and the goal is to interview approximately 80 women.