Perhaps it is due to the relative states of their economies, but business in Malawi doesn’t appear to be ring-fenced like it is in the
UK, where we misleadingly hear that “the CBI speaks for business” or “the government consults business”. This misleading ring-fencing, I think, makes it easier for the various voices you hear in a debate on the position of commerce in society to judge business as either intrinsically moral or intrinsically immoral. Intrinsically, of course, it is neither. It is a law of free human interaction.
We can describe poverty as almost always associated with a lack of access to certain ‘human interactions’. What has struck me already from my work at the MicroLoan Foundation, which lends start-up capital to the poor, securitised by group borrowing, is that the benefit of entrepreneurship for the disempowered poor is not only the access it gives to commercial interactions, but to other, perhaps social, interactions. Because our only collateral is the group, women in a MicroLoan Foundation borrowing group make a contract with each other that is based explicitly on trust. This trust inevitably extends beyond the financial management of the loan. For example in the use of group savings, which are a requirement before and during borrowing. These may be used if an individual falls on hard times, creating a measure of security for the very poorest in a way similar to the old ‘friendly societies’. Any attempts to improve the lot of the poorest must, I suspect, recognise the importance of joining people together – of multiplying human interactions.