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Why more men than women are sacco members

Saccos have since 1970s been a popular phenomenon in Kenya
Saccos have since 1970s been a popular phenomenon in Kenya, allowing individuals to put aside proportions of their incomes or earnings to gain dividends or even sell farm products in a pool and re-invest the profits as savings. FILE PHOTO | NMG 

Do men and women have similar interests or reasons for joining a Savings and Credit Cooperative Organisation (sacco)?

Saccos have since 1970s been a popular phenomenon in Kenya, allowing individuals to put aside proportions of their incomes or earnings to gain dividends or even sell farm products in a pool and re-invest the profits as savings.

Protus Wekesa, a security officer in a commercial building on Kimathi Street, Nairobi is yet to join a sacco 25 years since he started working.

“I do not see any need of joining a sacco. I prefer saving my money in a bank. I have educated my six children with my savings,” Mr Wekesa told Enterprise on Wednesday.

Ms Verah Okeyo, a health and science journalist with the Nation Media Group joined a sacco in 2013. She was motivated to join by the low interests charged on both short and long-term loans.

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“I had actually not thought about joining a sacco until I met the marketing team. That is when I realised the importance of embracing the savings culture. And I am happy I made a good choice. I have benefited from the loans,” she said

For Beatrice Torome, who trades in an assortment of merchandise on Moi Avenue, Nairobi, it’s a different story. Saccos are not her cup of tea and she saves all her profits and money in an M-Pesa (mobile money) account.

Until 2018, Ms Torome was in a sacco. But she withdrew her membership when the sacco misused members’ savings and the government ordered for its liquidation.

“I earn my money out of sheer hard work and perseverance and I must enjoy the fruits of my sweat, not count losses in the name of saccos,” she said.

“Maybe in future, I will save in a sacco probably run by the government or the one I will be sure will not collapse. Until then let my money be safe in my M-Pesa,” she said.

In 2012, when Ogollah Odhiambo, an administrator in a local firm joined a sacco, his interest was to get a loan to start a business and secure his future having been employed on contract.

“I am a very happy man now as my dream business is currently running while I am still working. It is good to invest in a sacco,” he advised.

The 2019 Sacco Societies Regulatory Authority (SASRA) report indicates that of the 4.78 million sacco members in Kenya, women constitute 34.23 percent while men account for 60.65 percent.

However, in Mwietheri Sacco Society Limited, which caters for coffee farmers in Embu County, women members outnumber men. Kenneth Murage, a manager at the sacco said 60 percent of the members are women, attributing this to the rising trend where more women own coffee farms.

“These days women are independently running their own coffee farms. Also, husbands are now apportioning their wives some coffee bushes to manage and earn from,” he told Enterprise on phone.

“Wives became wiser when they realised their husbands were carelessly spending all the money. They would withdraw the earnings then squander all of it instead of providing for their families,” he said.

And so currently the trend is for a couple to have an agreement which entitles each of them a number of the coffee bushes to which they register with the sacco and draw earnings as individuals.

Men, however, outnumber women in Nyamira-based Vision Point Sacco Society Limited whose membership is open to farmers, teachers and individuals from both the formal and informal sector.

Daniel Ombaso, the sacco’s director, attributed the high number of men to the sectors that the organisation targets, which have a high number of male employees.

According to Elizabeth Nkukuu, the chief investment officer at Cytonn Investments, women may not be investing in saccos due to low disposable income and lack of information.

“For instance, women in the informal sector may be having less disposable income and so they prefer merry-go-rounds,” she said.

Judson Nyabuto, a business consultant with Stag African, argued that women prefer to keep off saccos because they “tend to be more risk-neutral and risk-averse than men.”

“A woman would say I will rather save my Sh10,000 in my pocket than put it in a sacco which can collapse at any time. A man, on the other hand, is likely to invest in the sacco without considering such risks,” he said.

In SASRA’s sector analysis, women were found to be more in farming-based saccos at 48.24 percent, compared to 46.33 percent for men.

In the private sector, the gender imbalance in saccos was minimal — 8.63 percent women and 9.96 percent men. In teacher-based saccos, there were more women at 18.25 percent against 15.67 percent men.

Jacob Kimathi, the chief executive officer at Nation Sacco said there are reasons why saccos have more male members.

He said the figures are reflective of the dynamics of culture and sacco regulations as well as the gender composition of the workforce in the sectors that the saccos draw their membership.

“For instance, in the manufacturing sector, you will find that there are only male employers because of the skills required,” he said.

“If you go to rural areas, saccos go for heads of families with title deeds and often, these are men. By default, a man becomes a member but it is different in urban areas.

“Working women are joining saccos more than the men. They are taking loans to pay fees for their children and even to invest.”

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