Association pour l’anthropologie du changement social et du développement
Association for the anthropology of social change and development

Online Research Seminar

May 13, 2024 | À la une, Actualités

Private Sector Aid: Morality and Practice in Profit-Making Development Work

by Molly Sundberg

Friday 17 May 2024
12h30 - 13h30 (Brussels Time) - 10h30 - 11h30 (GMT)
Zoom Link:

Abstract: In the world of international aid, profit-making actors and instruments are
growing in number, and with them, a new group of development professionals specialized in
finance. This seminar explores how guarantee experts and investment managers in
Development Finance Institutions in Europe and East Africa are bringing about changes in
moral understandings of aid. At the core resides the link between profit making and selfinterest,
which is sometimes deemed irrelevant, sometimes virtuous, and sometimes seen to be
outweighed by commercial incentives’ superior ability, compared to aid grants, to foster
reciprocity and equality in donor-recipient relations. Finance experts construe
development investments as relational investments, suggesting a reinterpretation of
financial risk taking and profit making in capitalist logics. These claims deserve
empirical scrutiny, but they also offer interesting input to two areas of anthropological
theorization: economic morality in neoliberal capitalism, and aid as a Maussian gift.

Molly Sundberg is Assistant Professor in social anthropology at the Department of Social
Anthropology and Director of Studies for the Bachelor’s Programme in Global Development at
Stockholm University in Sweden. Her main research interests concern development, aid,
governance, security and organization. Currently, she is pursuing a research project financed by
the Swedish Research Council on for-profit aid and development contracting (2020-2024).