Jun 9, 2011

Economic Networking in Africa

A neighbor of mine once took a decision to move away from his parents immediately he got married in order to prevent the possibility of rivalry between his mum and wife. He moved to another suburb of town about thirty kilometers away from his parents. After just about eighteen months he realized he had made a mistake and decided to go back to his parents. In the new environment, he discovered that each time he was broke there is no one to come to his rescue as he was completely a stranger.


In Africa where a lot of people are poor, a kind of economic networking becomes a solution through which people help themselves to overcome economic challenges. Students studying far away from their parents often survive difficult task of ensuring daily meals through networking. The wisdom here is that for a group of six friends, for instance, all of them cannot be without money at the same time. If you happen to be without money, you depend on your friends for your meals until when money comes from home. Tomorrow it will be your turn to support another friend. By so doing they beat the economic challenges that come with feeding.
Economic networking is also the wisdom used by persons that earn modest incomes that they cannot afford certain things like cars and houses of their own. Here, colleagues working in the same organization agree to be making contributions on a monthly basis that is given to a single member. Ten colleagues can decide to be making contributions of about $65 each every month end. The total is given to a member who uses it to buy an item that is highest in his demand scale of preference. A member’s turn to take the contribution is based on a raffle. In some cases a member can agree to be the last on condition that he will be the first in the following year. By that he saves his earlier contribution for just about a month or two at the end of which he adds that to the amount from the new year.

Economic networking can take the form of committee of friends. These are groups of friends who hold regular meetings. At the end of each meeting a fixed amount is paid by each member. The total sum is taken to a bank account belonging to the group. Members then resort to the fund when one of them is in need. The need could be wedding, ill health or other economic challenges that may be unpredictable.
My late mum used to belong to a committee of friends with other women. The meetings are held every month-end. A different member hosts the meeting every month. During her turn she prepares a variety of meals for members who come, feast and chat. At the end, every member gives a fixed amount to the host. The amount is not meant to cover the cost of hosting alone but is substantially huge enough that the excess is used by that member to address immediate economic needs. We often looked forward to our mum’s turn as we inevitable join in the feasting of the variety of dishes albeit behind the curtains.
Economic networking does have risks. A member could have his turn early in the year and refuse to give his own contribution to other members in subsequent months. If series of attempts made to recover the money fails, the other members can forget about it especially when the amount involved is deemed as something that can be sacrificed. If the amount involved is significant however, other members involved third parties, usually a respected person that is feared as a result. It does not always get to the police as it is something that was based on friendship. Rather members could decide to sacrifice what was involved but relationship with that member and his reputation are badly damaged.

Another member can die before his turn. When his turn eventually comes however, the only members that contribute to him are members for whom he had given, prior to his death. His contribution is taken to the closest relation that could be his wife, children, father, brother, etc. Boyfriends and girlfriends and exempted.

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