Rotating Savings and Credit Associations (ROSCA)

Rotating Savings and Credit Associations (ROSCA) are among the oldest and most prevalent savings institutions found in the world and play an important role in savings mobilization in many developing economies. They are locally organized groups that meet at regular intervals; at each meeting members contribute funds that are given in turn to one or more of the members. Once every participant has received funds, they can either disband or begin another round.

Communities have developed organically in many rural areas of the developing world that lack formal banking services, providing another option toward gaining access to financial capital. Savings groups vary from informal rotating savings and credit associations (ROSCAs) to more structured accumulating savings and credit associations (ASCAs). Common to all associations is voluntary membership based on trust, full transparency, and the existence of a strong social unity between group members.

ROSCAs are based on seasonal cycles in which, once each group member has contributed to the pot, it is then taken home by one or more members, thereby negating the need for formal records. This model is well adapted to communities with low literacy levels and weak systems for protecting property rights. ASCAs appoint a group member to manage an internal savings fund and keep detailed records. After the group has agreed to an interest rate and loan period, funds are lent out. Once the loans are paid off on the fund, plus profit accumulated from loan interest, the proceeds are distributed to members. The group may then re-form, perhaps with some changes in membership, and a new cycle begins.

The more formalized and sophisticated savings and credit associations may request a business plan to be submitted in order to gain loan approval, and some aspect of business and money management training might be provided. However, the basic model always ensures that group members uniformly benefit from the process; i.e., there is no one individual who profits more than others, and above all, the associations benefit the whole village as funds remain within the community. Loans acquired from within the community may be used to purchase land or livestock, or even create a new enterprise, thus additionally contributing to the growth of the community.

In the absence of traditional banking services, participating in savings and credit associations is an excellent method for the rural poor to self-manage their finances and ensure a basic level of economic stability. Hugh Allen, a microfinance expert with over three decades of experience, states: “The very poor may, then, be best served by member-managed micro-institutions that can operate flexibly and profitably and can offer appropriate services at a smaller scale until such time as the economy grows to the extent that the pot of money and the scale of the average microenterprise are large enough to attract the regulated formal sector.”

The World Savings Day

The World Savings Day was established on October 31, 1924, during the 1st International Savings Bank Congress (World Society of Savings Banks) in Milano, Italy. The Italian Professor Filippo Ravizza declared this day the “International Saving Day” on the last day of the congress. In the resolutions of the Thrift Congress it was decided that ‘World Thrift Day’ should be a day devoted to the promotion of savings all over the World. In their efforts to promote thrift the savings banks also worked with the support of the schools, the clergy, as well as cultural, sports, professional, and women’s associations.

Representatives of 29 countries wanted to bring to mind the thought of saving to the worldwide public and its relevance to the economy and the individual. The World Savings Day is usually held on October 31 except in countries where this day is a public holiday, since the idea is for the banks to be open, so that the people are able to transfer their savings into their account.

The idea of World Thrift Day was not born out of nothing. There had been some examples of days that were committed to the idea of saving money in order to gain a higher standard of life and to secure the economy, for example in Spain where the first national thrift day was celebrated in 1921, or in the United States. In other countries, such as Germany, the peoples’ confidence in savings had to be restored since many of them had lost their savings in the German monetary reform of 1923.

After the Second World War, World Thrift Day continued and reached the peak of its popularity in the years between 1955 and 1970. It practically became a veritable tradition in certain countries

Nowadays the focus of the banks that organize the World Savings Day is on developing countries, where many people are unbanked. Savings banks play an important role in enhancing savings in these countries with certain campaigns and initiatives such as working with nongovernmental organizations in order to double the number of savings accounts held by the poor.