Society for Cultural Anthropology
Oral Presentation Session
In 2015 the International Monetary Fund reported that pan-African banks have expanded rapidly on the continent and are now “much more important” to African finance than long-established European and American institutions. Indeed, in 2016, Barclay’s—the British multinational investment bank that had operated in Africa since the early 20th century as Barclays Bank DCO (Dominion, Colonial and Overseas)— ended its African operations. Today, self-labeled Pan African Banks—African owned and capitalized cross-border banking groups—operate in nearly forty countries on the continent. Their rapid expansion is mirrored in the retreat of U.S./U.K. based banks and the apparent relegation of international financial institutions to technical advisory roles. Does the rise of Pan African Banks (PABs) signal a shift in Africa’s place in the global economy? The continent has long been theorized as marginal, abjected, or at the least unevenly and often violently included in geographies of global capitalism. This paper builds on preliminary research with the largest Pan African Bank to begin to answer some of the following questions: What explains the recent and rapid rise of PABs? What are the conditions of possibility for this apparent shift in global finance, and what does it look and feel like from within these institutions? What does it mean to call capital “African” and when is capital “foreign”? What combination of local and foreign institutions (depositors, firms, investment streams, governments, multilaterals) provides this capital? Finally, what scales, geographies and histories are at work in the emergence of “Pan African” banks?