The economic crisis could see more South Africans turn to stokvels by 2023

Systems similar to stokvels are used around the world.

The number of South Africans who own stokvels is expected to increase in 2023 amid market volatility, says Andrew Lukhele, president and founder of the National Stokvel Association of South Africa (Nasasa).

With a membership of 11.4 million by 2022, the savings plan has been valued at over R45 billion annually and has become increasingly popular with South Africans. About 810,000 stokvels were registered in NASA’s database in 2022.

Speaking to News24, Lukhele says savings schemes like stokvels have historically been used when people have experienced difficult economic climates, including during wars and pandemics.

What are stokvels?

“The term ‘stokvel’ is derived from the cattle auctions or cattle fairs of English settlers in the Eastern Cape in the early 19th century,” explains Lukehele.

It is a financial scheme where individual member clubs contribute money each month in a lump sum. This lump sum can be given to a club member weekly, fortnightly, monthly or even annually. Members may also receive a lump sum of their monthly contributions at the end of each year.

“Stokvels, or savings clubs, have been around for generations and create mini-communities where like-minded people can meet regularly to socialize and support each other by keeping up with contributions per month,” according to Sisandile Cikido, head of retail investments at Nedbank.

Different types of stokvels are offered, including rotating stokvel clubs and grocery stokvels. It is a phenomenon that exists all over the world, according to NASA’s website. Similar financial systems include tandas in South America, kameti in Pakistan, and tanomoshiko in Japan.

Financial pressures

After the financial pressures of the pandemic, many South Africans turned to stokvels as a means of saving money. According to the Old Mutual Savings and Investment Monitor in 2022, informal savings and stokvels “remain popular and continue to attract significant flows”.

The survey found that the average monthly contribution to stokvels rose from R1 213 in 2021 to R1 384 in 2022, an increase of 14%.

“South Africans are notoriously poor savers, which affects the economy as a whole, as well as the ability of families to weather hard times. As we saw during the [Covid-19] Lockouts, stokvels helped many people survive the catastrophic loss of income,” says Cikodo. These financial pressures may continue to increase in 2023 as many South Africans are currently experiencing financial hardship due to the rising cost of living and interest rates.

Advantages of stokvels

As a financial scheme, stokvels have many advantages that are attractive to South Africans, according to Lukhele.

“They are reliable, approachable and understanding of members’ needs and difficulties and can help in emergency situations when money is needed quickly because they are flexible and accommodating,” he says.

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