In many sub-Saharan African countries, women’s groups, especially savings groups, play an important role supporting their communities. Members of savings groups pool small weekly savings into a common fund, which members can then borrow against, creating opportunities for investments and women’s empowerment. Savings groups have shown mixed, but promising, results in improving economic and social outcomes.
During COVID-19, savings groups in sub-Saharan Africa have shown the potential for contributing to community resilience. Many savings groups have disbursed their funds to help group members meet their immediate needs, although this has sometimes led to the depletion of group funds. Moreover, savings groups have provided opportunities for women to take on community leadership roles in response to the crisis and have served as networks to communicate about how to limit the spread of COVID-19.
A consortium of researchers, practitioners, and funders collaborated to conduct an evidence review of how COVID-19 has affected savings groups and how these groups have helped mitigate the pandemic’s negative consequences in sub-Saharan Africa. The report’s authors also call for governments, donors, partners, and researchers to take the following actions in support of savings groups:
- Link savings groups with social protection program and stimulus efforts to support group sustainability.
- Ensure flexibility in loan repayments to external entities.
- Collect high-quality data on women’s groups with more frequency to generate additional evidence for decision-making.
Donors, partners, and researchers:
- Prioritize women’s leadership within community response and pay group members for community support activities.
- Leverage findings and resources from the SEEP peer learning group on savings groups.
- Conduct research on women’s groups’ access to markets, the role of digital delivery systems, and the relationship of group savings to COVID-19 policy responses