My earliest memories of a chama include food in plenty and loud laughter followed by hushed tones in serious conversation. My mother and her lady friends have met consistently once a month for over 27 years. They are my “aunties”, the ones with no familial relation, every African has some. But a chama is so …
My earliest memories of a chama include food in plenty and loud laughter followed by hushed tones in serious conversation. My mother and her lady friends have met consistently once a month for over 27 years. They are my “aunties”, the ones with no familial relation, every African has some. But a chama is so much more than meetings. According to the 2016 FinAccess report, 1 in 2 individuals in Kenya is a member of an informal financial group. As is mostly the case, it starts out to help meet a household need like school fees, or results from a group of friends who desire to grow their businesses, others have come together because they attended the same high school and feel the urgency to “jipanga”(loosely translated to financial planning to attain financial freedom). Wherever you go, in Africa, these groups exist. These are the people you invite to raise funds for your wedding, medical assistance due to unexpected illness or the final rites for your loved ones.
Longhorn Publishers together with author Mr Tony Wainaina recently launched the book “The Investment Group Handbook: From Chama to Conglomerate”. According to the Mr. Wainaina, this book is necessary because investment groups, or “chamas”, despite their numbers and value of assets pooled over the years, remain largely informal, fragmented and have no institutionalized support systems to help them unlock their potential. At the event, he said, “While saving and investing individually is good, doing the same with others works better because groups already exist in culture and help to solve challenges. Another key benefit is the peer pressure to meet your responsibilities.” People often leave their chamas due to changes in life priorities or due to disagreements. Others remain, but aptly put at the launch by Stephen Gugu, “have never seen the plot of land the chama bought 2 years ago.” Whether you fall in one of these categories or represent the other one person, here are some key take-aways from a panel discussion at the book launch.
And that is what this book sets out to do. Tony Wainaina looks at 3 Kenyan investment group case studies and details what has happened 6 years since he initially profiled them in the first edition of his book. As Mr. Wainaina puts it, “All this investor class requires is capacity building, and that starts with giving practical guidelines on what to do to improve their capability to create real, sustainable wealth.” The book is available for purchase at Text Book Center.
Written by Nyambura Ngumba