Reflections and perspectives on accessing informal finance and social capital

Beverly J. Best*, Katerina Nicolopoulou, Paul Lassalle, Henry Eze, Afsa Mukasa

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


Learning outcomes: After completion of the case study, students will be able to identify and discuss ways in which informal financing of the kind discussed in the case study can provide new or different opportunities for access to alternative financing schemes; assess the role of“social capital” in micro and small business development and to understand and apply the role of social capital for female entrepreneurs in the Global South; critically analyse and reflect on the new role of digital technologies in challenging traditional patriarchal social norms and exclusion and ultimately be able to evaluate the role of digital technologies in terms of its practical implications for female entrepreneurs; and understand the role played by socio-cultural and historical contexts in female-owned/managed businesses within informal sectors of the economy. Furthermore, the students should be able to discuss how these contexts provide opportunities or challenges for actionable/robust/relevant business plans for female entrepreneurs. Case overview/synopsis: This case study aims to create a platform for classroom conversations around: context of entrepreneurship in informal economies, challenges of accessing finance, women entrepreneurship, opportunities of digital entrepreneurship and resource acquisition and social capital. Overall, this case study intends to inspire and cultivate additional voices to advance authentic understanding of informal business practices in the financial sector that go beyond traditional formal western settings. This case study is based on a true story relating to the “sou-sou” financing system – an informal financing scheme – originating from West Africa which has been transported to other parts of the world including Latin America and the Caribbean (LAC) and other parts of Africa. The characters involve Maria, the main protagonist; Eunice, from LAC; and Fidelia from West Africa. With first-hand information from Eunice and Fidelia, Maria learnt about the ideological principles and the offerings of flexibility, trust, mutual benefits and kinship of the sou-sou system and was inspired to integrate digital technologies as a sustainable game changer for accessing microfinance. This case study draws on the contextual understanding of the economy in the Global South as well as the gender-based aspects of entrepreneurship as key aspects of women entrepreneurship and digital entrepreneurship. The sou-sou system is presented as a practical solution to the challenges faced by women entrepreneurs in the Global South to access finances, and the integration of digital technologies is considered instrumental not only in reinforcing the traditional system but also in transforming the entrepreneurial prospects for these women. Complexity academic level: This teaching activity is aimed at postgraduate students in Master of Management and Master of Business Administration programmes. It can also be used for short executive courses, specialised PhD seminars and advanced bachelor programmes. This case study could be taught in the field of entrepreneurship in areas related to technology, gender, women entrepreneurship and financing in the context of the Global South. Supplementary materials: Teaching notes are available for educators only. Subject code: CSS 3: Entrepreneurship.

Original languageEnglish
Number of pages7
JournalEmerald Emerging Markets Case Studies
Issue number1
Early online date27 Feb 2024
Publication statusE-pub ahead of print - 27 Feb 2024


  • Business development
  • Digital entrepreneurship
  • Digital technologies
  • Entrepreneurship
  • Financing
  • Informal business practices
  • Small businesses
  • Social capital
  • Women entrepreneurs


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