By Evans Essienyi, AHI West Africa Associate
In Ghana, “susu” refers to the process of putting money by. Like many emerging economies, Ghana has a less developed financial market and an exclusive credit industry; “susu” is one of the few processes available to the informal population for insuring themselves in emergencies. The “susu” is done either by an individual who puts money away in a secret place in his/her room, or in a group setting where a trusted group member becomes responsible for keeping the group’s savings, or a susu collector is assigned to do the collection and keeping of the “susu” proceeds.
The “susu” idea is so pervasive that one is unlikely to encounter an informal sector family in Ghana without the habit of putting money by in one form or another. This habit though, is more popular with women – mothers in particular. Parents inculcate the “susu” habit into their children by providing them with “susu boxes” at an early age. Children as young as 7 years old are encouraged to fill their “susu” boxes to cater for their Christmas and birthday supplies. I remember that, as a young boy growing up, I had a “susu” box in which I deposited my change and gifts I received from adults.
The “susu” habit develops other desirable personality traits in children and adults. It entails a lot of self discipline and commitment to set aside, either daily or weekly, portions of one’s meager earnings for the unforeseen. “Susu” also requires one to be prudent with his/her income to be able to sustain a savings habit. For individuals who keep their “susu” proceeds themselves, in their homes, the ability to restrain themselves and delay gratification is also important to main the account for the duration of the determined time or period.
“Susu” does not only provide economic means in emergencies, but also helps socially to develop a very disciplined group of people.
We would be excited to hear about other informal forms of savings from around the world.