Remote (dis)engagement: shifting corporate risk to the ‘Bottom of the pyramid'

Roll, Kate, Dolan, Catherine and Rajak, Dinah (2021) Remote (dis)engagement: shifting corporate risk to the ‘Bottom of the pyramid'. Development and Change, 52 (4). pp. 878-901. ISSN 0012-155X

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Untapped markets are often deemed institutional voids, terra incognita ripe with economic possibility. The conversion of institutional voids into viable markets has become the ambition of many corporations today, which view marginal and under-served areas such as urban slums as opportunities to achieve the dual aims of market growth and poverty reduction, particularly through ‘bottom of the pyramid’ (BoP) programmes. This article examines how firms manage institutional voids and the consequences of these approaches for workers through a case study of a BoP ‘route to market’ programme designed by a global food manufacturer in Kibera, Africa's largest slum, located in Nairobi. Instead of engaging with Kibera by upgrading informal markets or generating formal employment, the corporation focused on harnessing existing informal systems through composite arrangements of NGOs, social networks and informal enterprises, a strategy the authors term ‘remote (dis)engagement’. The article describes the logics and outcome of this strategy of formal engagement with informal markets, concluding that the BoP business model depends on ‘gig practices’ of flexibility, irregular work and insecurity to realize the much-heralded ‘fortune at the bottom of the pyramid’.

Item Type: Article
Keywords: Bottom of the Pyramid, Development, Inclusive markets, enterpreneurship, youth, Kenya
Schools and Departments: School of Global Studies > Anthropology
SWORD Depositor: Mx Elements Account
Depositing User: Mx Elements Account
Date Deposited: 24 May 2021 06:45
Last Modified: 28 Feb 2022 16:03

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Project NameSussex Project NumberFunderFunder Ref
Doing Good by Doing Well'.G1720ESRC-ECONOMIC & SOCIAL RESEARCH COUNCILES/L000636/1
Norwegian energy companies abroad: Expanding the anthropological understanding of corporate responsibilityG1748RESEARCH COUNCIL OF NORWAY153400/240617