Tuesday, January 31, 2023

Is your chama a waste of time and money?

By Benson Bundi

Chamas have been vital investment vehicles in Kenya for decades. They started as women’s groups where women could meet, socialize, and contribute money for specific goals. Often, the money would be given to one member at predetermined intervals.

As a result, women were able to purchase household items such as cutlery, blankets, plastic chairs, etc., even though most of them were unemployed.

However, in recent years, chamas have evolved from simple women groups to some of the most effective forms of table banking. People realized that coming together and pooling capital and ideas motivated them to complete more significant financial projects than they would have otherwise done on their own.

That said, most chamas never survive past their first year. If you belong to a Chama, here’s how to know if it’s a waste of your time and money:

Does Your Chama Have a Plan?

You must be clear on what you want to achieve as a chama. Your plan can be as simple as giving contributions to one member at the end of the month or buying an acre of land by the end of the year.

Either way, you must have a clear direction of where you are going.

Are The Members Committed?

The first sign that your chama is headed for the rocks is a lack of commitment from members. Commitment stems from simple details like being punctual for meetings to contributing the agreed amount on time.

Unsuspecting Kenyan women losing millions in WhatsApp, Facebook chamas

For instance, let’s say you have a project to grow and sell cabbages. Every member must commit to every step of the project, from planting the seedlings, and watering the cabbages, to marketing.

Otherwise, yours will only be a waste of time and money.

Penalties and fines are a great way to enhance commitment in your chama. They ensure members arrive for meetings on time and stick to the chama’s constitution.

Lack of Financial Knowledge

It’s essential that members have financial knowledge of investment options available to the chama.

This way, you won’t worry about what to do with your contributions. As a chama, you can hire financial consultants to teach you about various investment options. Nowadays, classes can be held via zoom or WhatsApp.

A financial advisor will help you weigh your options on whether to invest in stocks, real estate, agriculture, or any project you might have in mind. This way, you won’t lose money as a chama.

Lack of Clear Objectives

Successful chamas have a written constitution that guides every step of their progress. This constitution explains precisely what is the goal of the group.

Is it just an excuse for you and your friends to meet for a soccer game over the weekend? Is your goal to chip in whenever a member has some event, say a funeral?

In your chama meetings, you must review your objectives and ensure you stick by them to the letter.

Lack of a Clear Investment Option

In most chamas, almost every member has their idea of what should be done with the contributions. Be it real estate, agriculture, flats, stocks, or whatever investment, every member thinks their idea is the best.

As a chama, all members must agree on one idea so the chama can move forward without wrangling.

Distractions Among Members

Every member joins a chama with their personal goal. For some members, it’s their only saving mechanism. For others, it’s only a platform to gossip whenever members come together.

If your chama is constantly bombarded by leadership disputes or arguments about what to do with the contributions, it might only be a matter of time before you join the ranks of chamas that have fizzled out after the first few rounds of contributions.

Conclusion

If you’re in a chama that does not have a clear plan, has no clear investment options, and where members are not committed, you are probably wasting your time.

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