Interview

I met with Portuguese Bruno Machado, fellow Fantoft resident. He worked with microcredits in Tanzania, so I asked him a few economics-related questions for my project. So far I had sustained that microcredits were a viable option for my project, but Mr. Machado pulled me out of that conceptual misunderstanding and introduced me into the idea of “active insertion“:

in the context of immigration in a welfare state, the host nation understands that the newcoming individual cannot possibly adapt all by themselves, so it offers a set of conditions for this adaptation and the self-realisation of the individual in their new home. While the receiving society includes (or excludes, in an unsuccessful scenario), the individual inserts (or excerpts), and both parts have to show initiative and work towards a common goal: assimilation and integration.

Here is an excerpt of ideas we talked about:

1.

Microcredits vary according to each country. They aim to aliviate the lack of access to traditional credit lines for people who exist in black economy. Countries in Sub-Saharian Africa can have as much as 60% of their economy happening informally, making it invisible to the government and traditional banking institutions. Microcredits are thought to offer someone asking for a loan the chance to have a collateral, something that would otherwise be impossible. Loans are usually offered to groups of 5 people (the number may vary), which means that if one of them doesn’t pay back, the other 4 have to cover the other member’s debt.

While the idea of microcredits may have a place in welfare states like Sweden, some adaptations need be made. For example, microcredit loans may be for sums of less than $100, an amount which may be a fortune in some places but is insufficient in a country like Sweden. Additionally, the welfare state traditionally aims to be somewhat “paternalistic”. However, it has been pointed out before that the chances of carrying out a successful project in Rosengård are deeply related to the involvement of the people in any possible solutions. So how to propose a solution which is adapted to the Scandinavian context, but it’s not just “another gift”?

Jointly funding a project is a good start. Both the European Union and the Swedish government have programs aimed at immigrants. A mixed initiative can come in the form of a cooperative scheme, where the community is also an investor (even if it’s with a relatively small percentage). A development project can be funded in shared amounts by the EU, Sweden and the local residents in a community-based organisation. These organisations are non-profit (even if they do profit), paying less taxes and its workers are also part-owners. Therefore, it is managed by democratic principles and democracy (to a certain degree of course, since there is always a board which takes executive decisions), making “the base of the pyramyd” a strong pilar. Also, creating a temporary (lasting 5 to 10 years, possibly) Rosengård-specific business tax bracket system would be helpful in that it would present easier terms to start new ventures.

2.

The next thing is to think, what can these community-based project offer, in order to sustain itself? What can these people offer now and in the future? As it’s been mentioned here, these people come to Sweden with an array of skills: cooking, planting, shoemaking, blacksmithing… here is where the concept of a bazaar comes to play. It is relevant and deeply rooted in islamic tradition (let’s remember the large arabic presence in Rosengård), and offers a chance for these different activities to manifest themselves in a common arena where people can work. Work is the key to emancipation and self-determination, and the prospect of a better life is what brought many of these people to Sweden in the first place. To work enhances human dignity.

Blacksmiths? Leather workers? Spice merchants? Maybe goat shepherds?

3.

Foreseeing the future of a bazaar in Rosengård brings in the concept of solidary trade and sustainable commerce, where the competitive advantages of a community are exploited to the benefit of the residents. This is what happens in places like Little Italy or the many China Towns around the world: the locals have ways to cook, sell, trade, etc., not found elsewhere in their host cities, and this possibility draws visitors in search of food, goods or services to these enclaves. Prices are often lowered or increase in these places, in order to make the most of the situation and collect the largest earnings, either due to a large client base or to the quality and added value of the products traded in these places.

But why can this idea succeed here?

– Rosengård is located mere minutes from Malmö centre, and maybe half an hour away from Kastrup and Copenhagen. Thousands of potential visitors can be found in the vecinity.

– Just like Bruno, many of us will, if it’s on our possibility, visit a locally owned, small business. They offer a friendlier environment, personalised attention, and often offer products which are impossible to find elsewhere (I must say I know this by experience from certain shops in Rosengård).

– People in Sweden can afford to pay 5 or 10% more for a quality product. The price difference and a temporary tax regime can favour a boost in the income of local families.

– If the products are of good quality, people will gladly pay. People already come from the rest of the city to Rosengård in order to buy food, so there are chances to extend this commercial activity to other branches of trade (here is where the architectural programme comes in!).

– Curiosity. Rosengård is known for its riots, but it could also be known for being the one place where you find unique things (and people making an honest living).

Does active insertion have a chance here? With so many shoemakers, people growing food, old ladies cooking on mosque-days and teenagers bootlegging music and videos, I believe there is hope in Rosengård.

* Bruno Machado studied under Universidade Beira Interior (Portugal), and has worked in community projects in Portugal and Tanzania.

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2 Responses

  1. very happy to read this roberto! interesting conversation and conclusion. i agree, this has great potential to work, so…

  2. A couple of concept related miss-quotes, BUT… you certainly got the big picture!

    I’m glad it helped 😉

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