After months of waiting, Senegalese Ndèye Khari Pouye touches the pot of the tontine, which will allow her to feed her chicken farm. Sitting on a mat on the floor, the lucky one does not hide her smile.

The happiness of this 50-year-old, surrounded by women in boubou, is shared by the assistance of the inhabitants of Medina, a district of the commune of Grand-Mbao on the outskirts of Dakar.

“It’s my turn. I have just won the 300,000 FCFA of the tontine ”, specifies Ndèye Khari Pouye, ie a little over 450 euros.

As in many other African countries, many Senegalese women participate in a tontine to finance their projects. This rotating collective savings system, where everyone contributes and receives in turn, overcomes difficulties in accessing credit or dissuasive interest rates. Long anchored in African culture, it is largely the work of women, but mixed tontines also exist.

“The tontine is the only way to save my money. The interest rates at the bank are too high, “said Ndèye Binta Ndoye, who participates in four tontines at the same time, including that of” Aunt Fatou “, in another district of Grand-Mbao.

Plus, “Financial institutions make you sign tons of papers, even things you don’t know. For an illiterate like me, it’s too complicated, “adds this professional hairdresser, who says she” never went to school “.

– ‘More ambitious women’ –

All generations come together and the atmosphere is good-natured. On chairs or even on the floor, some with infants in their arms, the women take turns plunging their money bills into a calabash.

Each member contributes 2,000 FCFA (around 3 euros). We collect the sum of the pot which is 500,000 FCFA (about 760 euros) and we give it “to a winner every Thursday, explains” aunt Fatou “, whose real name is Fatou Cissé, manager of this tontine which has 250 members and lasts five years.

While in some tontines the money is delivered by hand, in others it can be paid through a mobile phone payment system, which has become common in Senegal.

“In the days of our mothers and grandmothers, people of the same age would come together to form a tontine. The money they earned was used for family celebrations, such as baptisms, “said Fatou Cissé, a retired schoolteacher.

“Now women are more ambitious. We realized that wastage in ceremonies was useless and that we had to invest (the money from the tontine) in a sustainable business, “said Ndèye Binta Ndoye.

“I am the first woman in a polygamous household. My husband started to build the house and had financial difficulties. He asked me and my co-wife to finish ”the work,” she said.

“Thanks to the tontine, I built three bedrooms and a living room. I will wait until I win one more pot to build the rest. If the tontines did not exist, I would be forced to take out a loan from the bank, “continues the hairdresser.

In Grand-Mbao, the only other credit solution is a mutualist network which would require a deposit representing 20% ​​of the loan and an interest rate of 1.77%, with a repayment period of ten months, according to a source close to the folder.

– System of collective discipline –

The tontine is used not only to launch projects, but also to keep afloat businesses in difficulty, such as the poultry business of Mame Ngoné Cissé.

“I suffered huge losses at the start of my project. But thanks to the money from the tontine, I was able to restart my activity. Thank God my business is doing well, ”she says.

The tontines have management committees, made up of five to eight people who can read and write, among many illiterate partners.

Even though she has never studied accounting, it is Mané Niang, who left her studies in the first year of college, that the heavy task of counting and recounting the tickets of the tontine in the Medina district falls.

“I almost never make a mistake in counting money (…) I call a person’s name and they come and put the money in the calabash. We then calculate the sum together. We always check with a calculator, ”she reassures.

To build trust and transparency, steps are being taken. For example, the one who keeps the tontine cash register does not reside in the same domicile as the one who has the key.

Symbolic fines and punishment systems are also provided to encourage members to contribute regularly.

“A member who is late pays a fine of 200 FCFA. And if she persists in her delay, she is demoted on the list of the next jackpot winners. It even happens that he is not granted a loan until his contribution to the tontine returns to normal “, explains the manager of the district of Medina, Mané Niang.

But the sanction for any breach of collective obligations is above all social.

“Culturally, we women attach a lot of importance to dignity and our image in the face of society,” said Awa Cissé, at the tontine of “Aunt Fatou”. “We don’t dare + eat the money + tontines without paying: otherwise you will hear about it even to your grandchildren …”

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