Saved from poverty
13 July 2012 | RHODA KADALE
So far it has helped more than 16 000 members of 650 groups to save, borrow, manage money and build enterprises, all without formal financial or microfinance institutions.
The group’s performance has been so encouraging that FinMark Trust – an independent financial services research group – recently commissioned research that has uncovered SaveAct’s impact on people’s lives.
It is a misconception that the poor cannot afford to save. SaveAct’s work shows this is not true. More than any other group they have to save to survive and the demand for accessible low-cost places to save is high.
“Our savings model mirrors the stokvel, a popular method of saving. We have removed much of the risk. Members prefer this model because of the control it brings them,” says Anton Krone, director of SaveAct.
Savings groups offer an annual payout to all members, with higher returns, lower risk and more accessible loans. Repayment rates exceed 99%, members earn an average 30% return annually and membership retention rates are 99%.
“Combined savings are about R15 million presently, about R10 million of which is lent out,” adds Krone.
Members choose who they want to have in their group. They are introduced to rigorous, but transparent systems and procedures.
Members save every month, typically R50 to R100. They may borrow from their group, generally up to three times what they’ve saved at an interest rate of 10% per month.
Total savings and interest are shared out annually in proportion to members’ savings. This is timed to meet big annual needs, such as for school uniforms, books, or fertiliser and seed.
Once the groups graduate from SaveAct’s training, almost all continue into cycles of self-sustained activity.
They are supported by community-based promoters selected from established savings groups.
These promoters mentor groups to maturity and respond to requests from others wanting to form new groups. They receive a small fee from members.
Research shows that virtuous circles of economic activity are created: pooled savings provide capital that is invested in enterprises which generate more income and savings.
With social grants and remittances from family working in town, savings from small enterprise income make up the most important sources of groups’ savings.
More than 50% of households operate an enterprise.
“Members borrow money to improve their businesses … It is a two- way process … [when] I have sold things, I take the profit and save it in the scheme”, reports a community-based promoter.
Savings groups also assist people with HIV/Aids to manage their expenses and in turn their illness better.
“We witness people taking control over their money and their lives,” says Krone. “If there is no silver bullet to eradicate rural poverty, self-sustaining savings groups come about as close as one can get.”
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