Global Micro in the Making: The Marketization of Weather Index Insurance for Agriculture in Ghana & Kenya


Untouched by the current crisis of radical market-oriented policies, market integration continues to serve as the dominant one-size-fits-all approach for poverty reduction and economic development in the Global South. One frontier of current marketization processes is constituted by the nexus of climate change adaptation, financial inclusion and behavioural engineering. Debates about climate change suggest that countries in Africa are particularly vulnerable to altering climate patterns. Hence, the management of weather-related risks in agriculture has turned into an urgent topic for these countries and in consequence has been put at the forefront of the global agenda by international development organizations. Index-based weather insurance products for small-scale farmers are expected to respond to the emerging 'crisification' of climate change. By constructing markets for the poor, microinsurance programs are contributing to the broader development agenda of microfinance. Development economists and practitioners currently design, implement and negotiate this market-based risk transfer as a new adaptation tool. In fact, many African countries have recently seen the launch of index-based programs.

This research project problematizes markets by studying the emergence of weather-related insurance markets on a micro level in the Ghanaian and Kenyan context. It does so by analyzing first the global production of market models for microinsurance products at global microsities such as conferences and expert meetings. Second we focus on the subsequent translation of microinsurance knowledge into specific settings in Ghana and Kenya abd thirldy we scrutinize the process of mutual adaptation triggered by this specific microinsurance apparatus. Because Ghana and Kenya serve as a testing ground for the finance industry, not only are local societies transformed to conform the model, but simultaneously the model itself will be altered in processes of marketization. Therefore, the role of development economists is a central subject of scrutiny insofar as they essentially contribute to the performativity of economics in general and the making of index-based weather markets in particular. The research is inspired by theoretical insights from various strands of science and technology studies. It not only takes into account the constitutive role of technologies such as economic models, economic experiments and various calculative practices, but also processes of organizing and signification that are indispensable in producing and stabilizing new markets. Empirically, the research addresses three different contexts and scales: First, there is a focus on the international microinsurance scene and the production of global knowledge related to index-based insurance. Second, the market-oriented localization and adaptation of this knowledge and relevant practices within exemplary case studies in Ghana and Kenya are analyzed. Third, the generation and translation of economic knowledge via economic experiments such as randomized control trials and lab experiments regarding index-based insurance is reconstructed.


Starting date:

1 April 2013

Research areas:

Ghana & Kenya