A susu or sou-sou or osusu or asue (also known as a merry-go-round, Partner or Pawdna in Jamaica  sol in Haiti and Njangi in Cameroon) is a form of rotating savings and credit association, a type of informal savings club arrangement between a small group of people who take turns by "throwing hand", as the partners call it. The name is used in Africa (especially West Africa) and the Caribbean. The basic principle is that each member of the group makes a standard contribution to a common fund once per some time period. Then each period the total contributions are disbursed to a single member of the group. The recipient changes each period in a rotating fashion such that all the members of the group are eventually recipients. Participants of a susu do not make a profit, but receive their contributions as a lump sum and is a forms of savings clubs.
The concept of a susu is used throughout the world and has over 200 different names that vary from country to country. The funds are generally gathered with a set amount contributed from family or friends each week. An estimated three quarters of Caribbean immigrants in New York participated in susus during the 1980s.
Scammers have set up pyramid schemes which imitate or pretend to be susus. In contrast to traditional susus (in which participants only receive the money they put in without profit), these schemes promise a profit. Additionally, these scheme promise rewards for recruiting more people to the susu, in effect making it a pyramid scheme. These fake susu scams (also known as "blessing loom" or "gifting circle.") have increased during the 2020 COVID pandemic, and are often targeted to African-Americans under the guise of being the traditional African and Caribbean practice.
Susu collection is very heavily used by the sort of people living in high-density urban areas that are also the main challenge in the context of Covid-19; areas where informal self-organised dwellings are tightly packed and social distancing is virtually impossible. It also appeals to market traders who use it to put aside some of their daily takings to restock later. So, it was crucially important to keep the susu collectors on the DSS Platform going through the crisis and to try and squeeze out as much Covid transmission risk as possible in a high-contact business.
SatF has been deliberately designed around the principle of adaptivity and we have high two-way trust regarding adjustments to budget and working together on problems. Our starting point at programme level was a multi-partner, open conference call on the challenges being faced. Experience sharing was good and as program leads, SatF signalled up-front a willingness to adjust budgets but deferred the detail of that to follow-up calls with individual partners. This is the story of how that call set in train a set of practical actions that did keep susu collection businesses from folding during lock-down in Ghana, helped them weather an immediate storm of withdrawal requests and come back stronger off the back of having delivered during a crisis. We even have reports that the story of what we have done is spreading virally among susu users so good crisis management works as marketing strategy!
Of course, Abednego Darko and I did not know that in the second half of March when the collectors were blocked from going out onto the streets for what turned out to be three weeks (although at the time it was announced the lockdown had no fixed term). We had to get something working immediately. SatF signalled that money just disbursed could be diverted from longer term development to help keep the DSS Platform up and the susu enterprises on it functioning. Keeping the platform up was not a directly controllable issue because it is cloud hosted but fortunately it was not experiencing problems, so we left this till later as a long-term resilience issue.
By June, the corner had definitely turned and net-depositing started to build strongly. Word also began to spread that susu enterprises on the DSS platform had survived and were paying out whereas others were not honouring withdrawal requests. By end-June the rate of net depositing was back at pre-crisis levels and in July some of the enterprises on DSS Platform were having their best-ever deposit collection days.
Susu collectors are one of the oldest financial services in Africa. Based largely in Ghana and Nigeria, they are traditionally trustworthy people in the community who visit clients on a regular basis (often daily), collecting very small deposits over the course of a month. At the end of this period the susu collector returns the accumulated savings to the client but keeps one day's savings as commission. Susu collectors may also provide advances to their clients. CGAP estimates that there are 3,000-5,000 susu collectors in Ghana serving over half a million customers, with a monthly deposit base of at least US$50 million.
Fidelity Bank saw the new regulations as a good opportunity to expand its own BOP agenda and create a win-win situation for all parties: Fidelity provides a value-added service to the susu companies that helps them manage fraud risk, reduce collection costs and automate their reporting, and in return Fidelity gets access to a cheap source of funds, an important consideration for a small bank.
It is great news that that Fidelity Bank is providing technology services to Susu collectors in Ghana. In 2005, Barclays was the first global bank to link with the susu collectors and possibly the first global bank to link with an informal financial system for that matter in Africa. I was fortunate to be part of the team setting what was called Barclays Microbanking. One of the aims of the Barclays Microbanking programme was to inspire financial service industry to be innovative and creative in providing solutions to promote financial inclusion. What Fidelity is doing is to be commended and is building on creating greater financial inclusion.The use of technology is spot on. Even before the Barclays engagement with susu collectors in 2005, the susu collectors had already thought about how they could use technology to aid their business. However, I believe the current developments in technology is making this a possibility and Fidelity is starting this process with current technology and must be congratulated.On the demand side, one area that the bank should never loose sight of, is how the clients of the susu collectors are benefiting from the technology and the systems that have been put in place. Are they actually enjoying increased financial services that meet their needs? To ignore or down play this aspect, is to put the the viability of the programme at risk.Finally, the bank must continuously look for new innovations to improve their offering. No one can really claim success until the financial sector in Africa has made a dent in the deplorable state of financial exclusion on our continent. 041b061a72