The Role of Digital Platforms in Bridging Institutional Voids in Financing Agriculture: A Nigerian Case Study

  • Bookie Ezeomah

Student thesis: Phd


The problems with financing agriculture in Nigeria have stemmed from weak institutional arrangements required to facilitate the effective extension of finance to agricultural value chain actors, especially rural farmers. Several agricultural finance programmes have been rolled-out to bridge gaps in rural agricultural financing. However, these programmes tend to focus mainly on extending finance to more farmers, with less focus on other underlying issues with agricultural financing which this research has identified as manifestations of institutional voids. Institutional voids are often discussed as the existence of frictions in executing market transactions due to intermediation gaps between the demand and supply sides of markets (Ashwin, 2012; Droulliard, 2017; Dho et al., 2017; Heeks et al., 2021). In this thesis, I draw on the seminal work of Khanna and Palepu who conceptualise institutional voids as the absence or weakness of market intermediaries required to perform functions relating to information analysis, transaction facilitation, credibility enhancement, aggregation and distribution, regulations and public policy making, and adjudication (Khanna and Palepu, 1997, 2010). Khanna and Palepu theorise that these intermediating institutions are present in developed country markets but absent or weak in emerging and developing country markets. This research posits that the existence of institutional voids has resulted in the poor financing of Nigerian agriculture, leading to an underdeveloped sector with far-reaching economic impacts. To address the problem of weak and absent intermediaries, digital platforms have emerged to facilitate transactions between the demand and supply sides of agricultural finance markets in Nigeria. One manifestation of this digitisation is the increasing use of digital platforms to crowdsource agricultural finance to fund rural farmers, a fast-growing trend among Nigerian entrepreneurs. This research therefore seeks to identify if and how digital platforms address institutional voids in financing agriculture. The aim is to gain a better understanding of how these platforms can improve the financing of agriculture in Nigeria. The research therefore asks three questions: (i) What are the current problems in financing agriculture in Nigeria and how do they manifest as institutional voids? (ii) How are digital platforms emerging in response to institutional voids in financing agriculture? (iii) What are the implications for agricultural development, which arise due to the use of digital platforms in financing agriculture in Nigeria? To answer these questions, I conducted an in-depth case study of Thrive Agric. (an agricultural finance digital platform) to gain understanding of how the platform emerged to respond to agricultural finance needs, how it operates as a digital platform, and whether its operational activities bridge the institutional voids in financing agriculture. The methodological approach of the research is qualitative. Data were collected through semi-structured interviews - both face-to-face and virtual - participant observation, a qualitative survey, trialling the investment process through the platform, and through secondary sources. The research findings show that the digital platform, to some extent, bridges some institutional voids, especially those relating to information analysis, transaction facilitation, aggregation, distribution, credibility enhancement and monitoring. However, in some cases, the digital platform also maintains some institutional voids. This is partly due to its digital nature (digitality); and partly due to the nature of its intermediating arrangements that tends to exclude farmers and investors outside the influence of the platform. The research concludes that although digital platforms have the potential to contribute to agricultural development by bridging institutional voids, currently in Nigeria, their impact is at best on a micro level - isolated and
Date of Award1 Aug 2022
Original languageEnglish
Awarding Institution
  • The University of Manchester
SupervisorRichard Heeks (Supervisor) & Richard Duncombe (Supervisor)


  • Agricultural Finance
  • Agricultural Development
  • Digital Platforms
  • Institutional Voids

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