Community rotating savings and credit associations as an agent of well-being: A case study from Northern Rwanda

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This paper examines the potential of rotating savings and credit associations (RoSCAs) as agents of pro-poor community development and well-being in rural northern Rwanda, the area most severely disrupted during and since the civil war and genocide in the 1990s. The economic gains of membership, effects on social capital, and the inclusiveness of RoSCAs are explored. RoSCAs facilitate mobilization of a variety of resources. Members pool finances that are utilized to support the fulfilment of basic needs at the household level, in addition to building up assets. Social capital is both inherent to and stimulated by membership of a RoSCA, through the building of trust, collective actions undertaken, and the values shared by the members. RoSCAs were found to be relatively inclusive, particularly when compared with more formal credit schemes, often including representatives of the most marginalized, and therefore most vulnerable, socio-economic categories. Membership generally involves relatively small payments while contributing to positive subjective perception as well, thus fostering further human well-being. RoSCAs therefore warrant appraisal beyond the immediate financial opportunities they generate, because of their production and reproduction of values such as democracy, reciprocity, and solidarity, and thus their significant contribution to community development and human well-being.

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  • Cecilia Benda

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