‘Hands in the village pot’: Young men seeking adulthood through mobile money transactions in Senegal

  • Thibault Uytterhaegen

Student thesis: Doctoral ThesisPhD


The youth digital financial inclusion agenda, particularly around mobile money, has been spurred by the need to find a solution to widespread un(der)employment among young people in Sub-Saharan Africa (SSA). The social as well as economic importance for young people of achieving financial independence is recognised as a key means for their attainment of adulthood and - relatedly - of avoiding political instability. However, despite these policy goals, little research has explored the mobile money practices of young men and how these relate to their transition to adulthood.
This research, based on twelve months of ethnographic research with young men in St Louis and Dakar, Senegal, set out to examine this dual-problematic by using Guyer’s (2004) conceptual framework of Marginal Gains and Johnson-Hanks’ (2002) ‘Vital Conjunctures’ theorisation of ‘transitions’ to adulthood. These together enable analysis of the mobile money transactions of young men as they navigate local transactional institutions and socio-cultural norms of social adulthood.
Mobile money was found to be imbricated into existing transactional institutions as well as being one in itself. Most importantly, it provided identity resources and allowed young men to achieve marginal gains in the process of social becoming through visibility in social and kinship networks, but only occasionally enabled them to achieve material gains. Mobile money opened new routes for their aspirations towards experiencing social adulthood through ‘youth financial conjunctures’– and in particular contributing by putting their “hands in the village pot”. However, these were often found to be double-edged opportunities which also created greater potential for “not being considered” or for expectations to be unfulfilled or reversed. The promise of accessing and circulating wealth through mobile money is thus often counteracted by the reality of the structural economic limitations that keep young men feeling ‘stuck’ and unable to reach social adulthood.
Date of Award23 Mar 2022
Original languageEnglish
Awarding Institution
  • University of Bath
SupervisorMathilde Maitrot (Supervisor) & Ben Radley (Supervisor)

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