May 24, 2018   by

Gone are the days when chamas ( self-help groups) were a preserve of women ,and especially the less-educated folk who lived in the village.These were the pioneers of the chama ideology as they came together to form small informal groups which ,through contributions and savings,were able to help the members fend for their families and meet other financial needs.

Time has proved to us the numerous benefits that members accrue from joining chamas. However, if there is a section of society that has not yet been awoken to this reality are the youth. Armed with the right information, our young people can be open to a vast amount of financial and social benefits that chamas have to offer. Here’s my two cents for the youth who intend to start their own chamas.

Just the other day , I had the opportunity to interact with a duo from Kayole in Embakasi East Constituency, Nairobi. Sam and Bob (not their real names),both young men aged 21 and 23 and born and raised in the town, shared with me about their intention to start a group that through community service was intending to source for funds from the county government to better their lives. They already had a list of seven other youths whom they saw as potential members and were planning on recruiting them. Brilliant idea, I thought to myself. But there was something that the two were missing.

When it comes to starting a chama, it takes more than a vague idea in mind. A solid plan is needed, with definite goals and a well laid out constitution .What Sam and Bob had was more of a wish than a plan. The problem bedeviling most youths who intend to start chamas is that of illiteracy. Due to lack of good managerial and planning skills, they end up frustrated that what they consider their “grand ideas” do not take shape.

Young people need to be aware of the government policies and institutions put in place to help them start self help groups. Take for instance the Youth Enterprise Development Fund,a major vision 2030 flagship project of theKenyan Government that provides easy financial and business development support services for the youth. This is a golden opportunity which when seized can improve the lives of young people by leaps.One sure way to do that is to form youth chamas, for this gives them a better bargaining power when soliciting for loans .

It is important for young people to take advantage of technology to help in managing their chamas. With social media platforms, it is now easier than ever to connect with chama members. I was impressed by one particular group who due to their professionals commitments and distance barrier opted to holding chama “meetings” online through a Whatsap group. However, it is important to note that physical meeting is important to better cement bonds between members. The adoption of group management software like chamasoft to automate chama activities and hence increase the efficiency of group management is also important.

It may take time for a chama to actualize its financial goals, but with patience and discipline, the members’ lives will be changed for the better. It’s time that young people embraced the idea of chamas, because that’s one sure vehicle that can take them out of poverty into progress.




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This post was written by Victor Makau

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