Is Social Capital Fungible? The Rise and Fall of the Sanduk Microcredit Project in Ngazidja Iain Walker

Introduction

In 1993 the Sanduk, a French microcredit project that was explicitly modelled on the Bangladeshi Grameen Bank, was established on Ngazidja. Reasoning that in order to succeed the project would need to adapt to local conditions, the project operators drew up a blueprint for the project that was inspired by the Grameen Bank but attentive to the specific social and cultural context, thus merging Bangladeshi principles of social solidarity with a Ngazidja cultural context. The concept of social capital was invoked and oversight of the bank conferred upon customary authority figures, the assumption being that men who had acquired status in a ritual context would be able to exercise authority over the banks debtors. This proved not to be the case; many of the banks found themselves operating without effective control and were chronically dysfunctional. This paper looks at how the concept of social capital framed thinking within the project management, and suggests why this led to failure.

Walker, I. (2012) ‘Is Social Capital Fungible? The Rise and Fall of the Sanduk Microcredit Project in Ngazidja’, Journal of Eastern African Studies, 6(4): 709-726