Capital’S New Frontier: From “Unusable” Economies To Bottom-of-The-Pyramid Markets In Africa
Over the last decade, the bottom-of-the-pyramid (BoP) approach has gained prominence as a tool of “inclusive” capitalism in sub-Saharan Africa. This approach reframes development as a seamless outcome of core business activities, one that can ameliorate poverty by bringing much-needed products and services to the poor and generating employment opportunities for informal and subsistence workers as “micro-entrepreneurs.” Yet while transnational capital has set its sights on Africa’s “underserved” yet potentially buoyant markets, BoP initiatives do more than seize upon the entrepreneurial talent and aspirations of Africa’s informal economies. This article argues, rather, that these initiatives create BoP economies through a set of market technologies, practices, and discourses that render the spaces and actors at the bottom of the pyramid knowable, calculable, and predictable to global business. The article describes how these technologies extend new forms of market governance over the informal poor, reconfiguring their habits, social practices, and economic strategies under the banner of poverty reduction.