Saving in Poor Countries
Saving in Poor Countries
Beyond Cows: Incentives through social security to boost saving
Zitto Kabwe, MP
The Economist (September 20th, 2014) published an article (http://www.economist.com/news/finance-and-economics/21618900-coaxing-does-more-boost-saving-compelling-beyond-cows ) with above caption except that I have replaced ‘coaxing does more to boost saving than compelling’ with reference to social security. The article says that only 18% of the adults in Middle East and Africa have an account at a formal financial institution compared to 80% in high income countries. The poor have to save more as that “would help them to pay for big or unexpected expenses, such as school fees or medical treatment. It would also boost investment and thus accelerate economic growth” The Economist argues.
The article explains about difficulties for poor people to save including lack of self discipline. As a result Commitment savings accounts (CSAS) are growing rapidly. Many poor people in countries like Tanzania join Savings and Credit Societies (SACCOS) because they want to access their cash when in need as well as getting small loans for various purposes. However there are challenges to saving by poor people, “people in poverty often need access to their cash at short notice, whether for medical emergency or to take advantage of a business opportunity” as per the study done by Nava Ashraf of Harvard University as quoted in the article. Tanzania has developed a solution to mentioned challenges by encouraging savings by poor people through social security system.
National Social Security Fund (NSSF) the largest pension fund in East Africa has introduced a scheme to cover informal sector with social protection. Wakulima scheme (peasants scheme) enroll small-holder farmers into the fund by contributing Tanzanian shillings 20,000 (US $12) monthly and members benefit from short term and long term benefits. Short term benefits includes health insurance to members and access to small credits through NSSF member’s SACCOS scheme. Long term benefits include pension after consistent contributions for 10 years and attainment of formal retirement age which is 55 in Tanzania.
Coffee peasants from Kigoma, a remote region west of Tanzania, along the shores of Lake Tanganyika, were the pioneer of the scheme in 2013. They joined through their primary cooperative society of 1500 members and paid their membership contributions six months in advance. Since 2013 coffee buying season they got cheap credit from NSSF to buy coffee beans at interest rate of 9% (previously they were paying 18% to commercial banks). The cooperative, RUMAKO paid back this loan (US$ 1million) within a year after selling their crop. Peasants enjoy health insurance and have access to credits to improve their farms and engage in other enterprising activities. This year coffee production doubled because of access to inputs like fertilizers and pestcides as well as the excitement of socially protected living. NSSF decided to rollout the scheme all over the country in 2014, targeting 400,000 small holder farmers in cooperatives.
With schemes like these and innovations taken, poor countries can build savings culture, boost investments especially in agriculture and agro processing, accelerate growth and massively reduce poverty. Innovations like these mitigate the challenges of short term needs. However governments need to do more by, for example, introducing matching, whereby when a poor person (a peasant) saves a certain amount the government match it with a third of the amount, since poor peasants don’t really retire, introduce a price stabilization insurance coverage or drought insurance. These will provide incentives to save.
Subscribe to comments with RSS.