For the Urban Poor to adequately realize Economic and Social Rights, it is imperative that they are also emancipated financially. While the state is obligated by law to provide for realization of these rights, it is equally the responsibility of individuals to put in some level of personal investment towards the process.
It is on this basis that Pamoja Trust encourages such individuals to put aside some savings that would contribute to their financial freedom. With land and housing being key aspirations of Urban Poor citizens, a clear nexus can be seen these goals and the need to set aside resources that would enable their attainment. This quest has been the focal point of most savings schemes. Indeed, the Sustainable Development Goals and the Economic Pillar of Kenya’s Vision 2030 further anchor these aspirations.
As part of Pamoja Trust’s efforts to nurture the savings culture and benefits that are subsequently derived, the organization embarked on an exercise to audit the status of all savings schemes in Nairobi. The exercise Iwas carried out to assess the social and economic welfare of each savings schemes as well as the level of savings. The audits were also carried out to determine what support each group requires towards escalating their short term and long term objectives. The exercise therefore recognized that different savings schemes operate under different contexts and are therefore at different levels. The audits were carried out over a period of 2 weeks. The exercise involved 2 members of staff from Pamoja Trust and 1 member of social movements. The exercise was carried out through administration of open-ended questionnaires in focus group discussions. The questionnaires explored subjects including the groups’ objectives, challenges, and plans for improving their welfare as a group.
From the audits, it is emerging that a number of groups have well developed structures and systems for savings and loaning. This was the basis for extending an interest free credit facility to the Kibera market hawkers to finalize acquisition of a minibus. Equally successful is the Gracious Savings group from Woodley, which has so far accumulated savings in excess of 1.2 million shillings. From a total of seven audit exercises, it was further determined that majority of the groups require exposure and training on the Cooperative approach, access to loans and advocacy for security of tenure.
The future for savings schemes is the institutionalization through cooperatives. But for this to happen, there is need to adequately invest in education and skills that would allow for seamless transformation. But this can only be done after a careful analysis and appreciation of individual groups’ dynamics, operational structures and status. In the words of Nelson Mandela, education is the engine for personal development. This means that there should be consistent and sustained efforts geared towards building the link between the need to institutionalize and the original ideas that necessitated the establishment of the savings schemes in the first instance. Accordingly, there is a need to balance between building efficient and effective savings schemes that are driven by a common bond that defines their very existence.