Where Market Meets Community: An Economic and Gender Study of Microfinance in The Gambia
In The Gambia, financial sustainability and poverty alleviation have been largely based on the assumption that analysis of macro level growth will bridge the gap between the formal and informal sectors; alleviate poverty and exclusion, ignoring other important factors such as political, social, cultural and religious issues. The government, microfinance outlets and international development agencies have implemented many measures to bring the masses into the formal economy to no avail. This dissertation explores Reliance Financial Service and the role of the Osusus in poverty alleviation, and how the Osusus are the edifice of microfinance and economic sustainability in The Gambia.
Firstly, Osusus are small microfinance groups where participants receive substantial amounts of money to meet planned heavy expenditure commitments. To put things into perspective, Osusu is one of the oldest community based microfinance institutions in The Gambia, it has mostly resisted formalization. It is a social and financial system, where members contribute a set sum of money each week or month that is then allocated to one member. This has given some women a degree of independence and solidarity.
Secondly, despite women being the largest segment of the Gambian population, disparities in gender roles, illiteracy, high unemployment and the lack of mainstreaming the interest and needs of women in national policy and the system tends to leave many women economically disadvantaged. Hence, this dissertation found that the provision of microfinance services in the form of micro-credit, insurance and micro-savings could be a great sustainability tool to create equity, uplift the economic and social status of women in society. Also, women could use these services towards productive consumption such as feeding their families, sending their children to school, affording healthcare and engaging in productive economic activities to increase their income. Empirically, it examines the microfinance outlook in The Gambia, its impacts on socio-economics ramifications on the country. It also examines the role of microfinance, contextually Reliance Financial Services Kafoo scheme, as a viable alternative poverty-alleviation avenue.