Research Article

The discourse of institutional change in the Zambian microfinance sector

Published in: Africa Journal of Management
Volume 5, issue 1, 2019 , pages: 47–78
DOI: 10.1080/23322373.2018.1563463
Author(s): Juliana SiwaleNottingham Business School, UK, Jonathan KimmittNewcastle University Business School, UK, Bruce Lamont


This paper investigates the discourse of key actors instigating institutional change in the Zambian microfinance sector. It draws from the institutional story of Zambia, which has experienced regulatory and legislative flux since drafting its first microfinance act in 2006. Building on the ideas of discursive institutionalism and interviews with key stakeholders, it identifies three levels of discourse (ideas) that explain institutional change: policy, programmatic and philosophical. It highlights how ill-conceived discourse at a policy level shapes practices of microfinance institutions (MFIs) and ultimately challenge their worldviews, offering a cautious tale of institutional change in Zambia. More broadly, it discusses the implications of using discourse to understand institutional change in sub-Saharan Africa and offers an opposing cautious narrative to many of the successful microfinance stories on the continent which tend to dominate the literature.

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