Tuesday, January 19, 2016

Saving for a rainy day – in alternative ways: part 2

Research by IMTFI Fellows Sibel Kusimba and Nithya Joseph are featured in Part 2 of The Guardian series

"Compelling research shows most adults save money, yet few use a bank or other formal institution to do so, preferring to barter gold or give funds to family members. Here, women and financial experts weigh in on how banks might better capture this market."

Part 1 showed the ways in which many in developing countries save money via creative means. This installment takes look at Kenya’s mobile-based matriarchal brokerage system and where women use gold as a credit source in India and some lessons from the field on how banks can better serve the poor and women.
These women pictured in 2012 in Naitiri, Kenya, are closely connected by mobile money ties of mutual support. Photograph: Sibel Kusimba
Mobile-based money transfer service M-Pesa, launched in 2007, saw a 26% growth in value of transactions in the last financial year to $40.1bn, servicing 13.86 million customers. M-Pesa users send and receive money and pay bills electronically, without needing a bank account.

"Anthropologist Sibel Kusimba found that an interesting savings method has emerged from this trend: women, grandmothers in particular, work as brokers to recirculate mobile money funds in ways that benefit their entire families...'Kenyan women see themselves as responsible for others in their family, church and community – providing this security to others brings them prestige. Through reciprocity, they can rely on these people when needing that assistance. This social relationship is a form of savings...'"

"Gold and other precious metals have also long performed as a credit source. At the Institute for Money, Technology & Financial Inclusion (IMTFI), researcher Nithya Joseph traced gold as a form of savings in a silk-reeling town in Karnataka, India...'That gold continually rises in value makes the metal an ongoing attractive form of savings for this community,' Joseph says. 'Pawnbrokers are often family-run businesses, so interactions between broker and seller become tight. Even nationalized and private banks offer loans against gold as a service, while other companies have formed around gold-based loans.'"

Sibel Kusimba is currently an Anthropologist in Residence at American University. As an IMTFI fellow in 2014 she undertook research titled: "Mobile Money and the Coming of Age in Western Kenya." The research focused on how people in Western Kenya use mobile money technologies to pool resources for kin, friends, and co-workers. Learn more about Kusimba's work and the project here and the networks that were mapped visually and videos that emerged out of the project here.

Nithya Joseph is studying the politics of production and reproduction across the silk industry in Karnataka, India. As an IMTFI fellow in 2013, Nithya Joseph undertook the research "Silk Societies, Gold Stories: Using Gold-Based Life Stories to Study Gender, Financial Inclusion, and Work Vulnerability in South Indian Sericulture." Learn more about her work and the project hereThe blogpost of her research findings can be found here.

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