In many African countries, there are several initiatives aimed at helping women which, unfortunately, are very dependent on the current government. The more popular initiatives are usually facilitated by the wives of state governors and presidents to improve the lives of women and children in the country. For these programmes, what is often highly publicised is the handing out of food and clothing items to these women who do not appear to have a significant means of accruing personal wealth. However, Africa now seems to be witnessing a change in many local communities as rural women are beginning to realise they hold their financial future in their hands, if only they can work towards it.
This is the present mindset women from the Majengo province of Kenya— they use what is known as ‘table banking’ to fend for themselves financially. In table banking, the only security required when asking for a loan is trust among the members who guarantee each other and, as such, an effort was made to keep the membership low and manageable.
For the past seven years, women from this area come together to raise awareness on financial independence with a little help from each other. The group formed by these rural women, Magundu Neema, which is currently registered with the Ministry of Labour and Social Services, is not particularly strange to other African countries.
For instance, in Nigeria people have often formed local groups called Esusu, to collect money for a certain period of time in order to aid people in setting up a business venture or for other purposes. Monies are usually taken on a daily basis over the course of a month. At the end of this period the Esusu collector (who acts as a mobile banker) returns the accumulated savings to the client but keeps one day’s savings as commission.
After the first Magundu Neema meeting, the savings amounted to Sh7,500 after 50 women expressed interest to join the group. The women meet once a month and bring a minimum amount of Sh100. According to Business Daily Africa, the members agreed that the least contribution would be Sh370; Sh150 as registration fee, Sh100 in savings and another Sh100 for a passbook while Sh20 was collected for insurance. Over the years, the Magundu Neema has created a substantial amount of wealth for itself. For instance, in 2011, just a few years after formation, they were able to boast of raising up to 500,000 Kenyan Shillings.
Unlike the Nigerian Esusu system however, the shares within Magundu Neema determine the loan amount. For long-term loans, members can get three times their savings while for short-term credit, members can access up to two times their savings payable at an interest of 10 percent monthly.