You guys have all those book clubs…

Today, at about 10:00 am, all the women in my office disappeared.

I asked A, one of the law students who is working at the Centre for the summer, where everyone had gone.  He pointed at the large whiteboard in the hall, which read: Kikao cha Vicoba and explained that the women were conducting a Vicoba meeting in the boardroom.  Vicoba is short for Village Community Bank and is a microfinance lending project that was initiated by some of the women working here last year.  Each member is expected to contribute between 5,000 and 50,000 tsh per week (approximately $3 – $30).  The funds are used to provide loans to members who want to start businesses, pay for weddings, or fund another type of endeavour.  Members are allowed to borrow up to three times the amount they have contributed.  There is no interest or collateral, but there is an expectation that members will not default on loans because “everyone knows everyone else, how much they make, and when they get paid”.

A is an avid fan of the Hollywood movies that play weekly at Mlimani City near the University and he sums it up like this: “You guys have all of those book clubs and we have Vicoba”.

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