Ambiguity in International Finance and the Spread of Financial Norms: the Localization of Financial Inclusion in Kenya and Nigeria

  • Citation: Dafe, Florence. “Ambiguity in International Finance and the Spread of Financial Norms: the Localization of Financial Inclusion in Kenya and Nigeria.” Journal of International Political Economy 27, no. 3 (2019).
    • Topics:
    • Business and Trade
    • Keywords:
    • Sub-Saharan Africa
    • Kenya
    • Nigeria
    • global finance
    • spread of norms
    • central banking
    • financial inclusion
    • structural power

Despite powerful pressures for convergence towards global financial norms we do not see uniform outcomes across the globe. Instead, local agents seek to adapt foreign agendas to local conditions. While scholarship has illustrated the localization of global norms, we still lack a systematic understanding of why certain localized norms emerge and how we can explain agency in the face of pressures for policy convergence. I offer an analysis of the spread of the financial inclusion agenda to highlight the role that ambiguity in global financial norms and the structural dependence on capital play in explaining the emergence of specific localized norms. Using case studies of central bank promotion of financial inclusion in Kenya and Nigeria, I argue that the ambiguity of the concept of financial inclusion made it compatible with the pre-existing beliefs of local central bankers and helped them to navigate their socio-political environments to implement their preferred vision of financial inclusion. The cases also show that while ambiguity enhances agency, the structural dependence on capital constrains it. More broadly, the study highlights the constructive role ambiguity may play in the spread of financial norms and the agency developing countries may exercise in their engagement with global norms.

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