Author: Jeff Ashe
It was the summer of 2004. Mamadou Biteye and I met a group of women traders at a market two hours from Bamako, Mali’s capital. Before we made our pitch for Saving for Change, the Savings Group Initiative I directed at Oxfam America, I asked, “Are any of you saving in a tontine.” Their hands shot up. One woman said, “We save money every week and each of us in turn receives her payout.” She described in detail how she organized her tontine as the others listened intently. Another woman chimed in “We save for a year and then divide the money when most of us need it.” Another added, “We save so we can buy what we need to sell wholesale. That way we make a lot more money.” In less than an hour, they described three solutions for saving money in useful amounts adapted to their specific needs.