'Tontine' microcredit helps Senegal women

2017-04-30 22:28


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Grand-Mbao - After months of waiting, 50-year-old Ndeye Khari Pouye has finally won the "cagnotte de la tontine", a precious jackpot to help feed her chickens and maintain her livelihood.

Sitting on a mat surrounded by other women wearing traditional Senegalese wide-sleeved boubou dresses, she struggles to contain her glee.

"It's my turn!" beams Pouye, who has just won a jackpot of about $490.

Her financial good fortune is the result of a co-operative scheme organised among locals in the Medina area of Grand-Mbao, a neighbourhood on the tip of Africa's west coast on the outskirts of the capital Dakar.

A common practice throughout Africa, many Senegalese take part in centuries-old microcredit schemes called "tontines" to finance their projects.

Loads of paperwork

The name comes from Lorenzo de Tonti, an Italian exiled in France in the 17th century seeking solutions to shore up the French treasury. The "cagnotte" is the jackpot.

Through the traditional savings arrangement, participants contribute sums of money and take turns collecting the prize. The system helps borrowers overcome difficulties accessing credit as well as avoid prohibitively high interest rates.

"The tontine is the only way for me to save money. Interest rates from the bank are too high," says Ndeye Binta Ndoye, who takes part in four different tontine schemes, including one run by "Aunt Fatou" in another part of Grand-Mbao.

"Financial institutions make you sign loads of paperwork, even things you don't understand. It's too complicated for someone like me who can't read," adds the hairdresser, who did not go to school.

A family atmosphere reigns as different generations mix at the gathering. Sitting in chairs and on the ground, some hold babies as one by one, the women add their cash to the collection held in a dried gourd.

Read more on:    senegal  |  west africa

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