Skip to main content

Research Repository

Advanced Search

Experiencing microfinance: effects on poor women entrepreneurs' livelihood strategies.

Ukanwa, Irene; Xiong, Lin; Anderson, Alistair


Irene Ukanwa

Lin Xiong

Alistair Anderson


Purpose: The purpose of this paper is to address the problem of why the poorest, most disadvantaged groups such as rural African women, benefit less from microfinance. The authors focus on the perception and experiences of ordinary rural entrepreneurial women on microfinance in a context of extreme poverty and where family responsibility and economic activities are closely intertwined. Design/methodology/approach: The authors purposefully sampled 15 poor females with small businesses in two Nigerian villages. The key characteristic guiding the sampling was that the respondents had to be poor. The authors held two focus groups and ten interviews to capture their experience and understanding of microfinance. The authors used thematic analysis to establish patterns in the data. Findings: For poor entrepreneurial women, a livelihood for survival, putting food on the table and paying school fees are priorities, not business growth. They see microcredit as debt and a great risk that could lead to irreversible losses. Family responsibilities for basic consumption needs of the household can affect their ability to repay loans; perceived dangers of microcredit may outweigh potential benefits. Research limitations/implications: The theories, especially functionalist economic theory, do not take account of microfinance users’ experiences. Practical implications: Microfinance should be aware that the poorest perceive microcredit differently and should eliminate the intimidating barriers raised to them. Instead of providing a means for the poor to alleviate poverty or coping strategies for them to manage cash flows and risks, microfinance causes fear and anxiety by demanding high rate of return in a very short period of time. Social implications: The very poorest, who should be the beneficiaries of microfinance, are less likely to be able to benefit. The condition of poverty creates different realities for those at the base of the pyramid. Originality/value: This research questions the neoliberal rationality assumptions that microfinance rest on; the paper fills a gap in the literature, i.e. how the potential borrowers themselves living in deep-rooted poverty perceive and experience microfinance.


UKANWA, I., XIONG, L. and ANDERSON, A. 2018. Experiencing microfinance: effects on poor women entrepreneurs' livelihood strategies. Journal of small business and enterprise development [online], 25(3), pages 428-446. Available from:

Journal Article Type Article
Acceptance Date Sep 17, 2017
Online Publication Date Jun 18, 2018
Publication Date Jun 30, 2018
Deposit Date Sep 18, 2017
Publicly Available Date Jun 18, 2018
Journal Journal of small business and enterprise development
Print ISSN 1462-6004
Publisher Emerald
Peer Reviewed Peer Reviewed
Volume 25
Issue 3
Pages 428-446
Keywords Micro entrepreneurship; Microfinance; Poverty; Africa; Poor women entrepreneurs; Livelihood strategies
Public URL


You might also like

Downloadable Citations