Savings and Credit Groups for Small Businesses in Burkina Faso

Pilot Project ‘Development Cooperation’

The Road to Economic Independence

Between 2010 and 2017, the Hirschmann Foundation and its partner Swisscontact were funding a development cooperation project in Mali’s Bougouni/Sikasso region

The project helped proactive young women and men to create saving and credit groups in their villages. Thus, they were given the opportunity to make a living and provide for their families by building up their own income-generating businesses in agriculture, craftsmanship or trade.

Although the project has been terminated in Mali, there are numerous saving and credit groups that are still operating. In order to ensure the sustainability of the project, Swisscontact will continue to support the groups with their knowhow and within their means, if necessary.

Burkina Faso Region Centre-Ouest

The Malian model of savings and credit groups will be transferred to several villages of another West African country, Burkina Faso.

One of the aims of the project is to verify the sustainability of the concept of development cooperation in a different region.

In 2018, the project will be launched in the villages of Sabou, Reo, Gaoua, Dano, Batie and Fada, which are located in the Centre-Ouest region in the department of Koudougou. In the service of the Swiss Agency for Development and Cooperation (SDC), Swisscontact is already conducting activities in Centre-Ouest, such as the promotion of professional education in agriculture and craftsmanship.

Suman Saving and Credit Groups

The savings and credit groups in Burkina Faso are called Suman groups (they are called Wasa groups in Mali). The project enables people and groups of people who usually only have limited access to financial services to finance their own business plans. The savers receive interests and regular repayments of their savings.

The savings and credit process is made transparent to everyone involved.

10 to 30 people typically unite to form a small Suman group. Each member saves a predetermined small monthly amount. The group regularly meets for inpayments and outpayments, so that a pool of collective savings accumulates, from which the group awards loans with fixed interest rates and repayment terms. In Mali, up to 80% of group members are women.

Strengths of the Project

As experience in Mali has shown, thousands of people are given access to savings options and loans thanks to the savings and credit group concept.

Group members are able to:

  • establish their own income-generating business activities;

  • create permanent employment for themselves and their relatives;.

  • afford school fees, primary health care, and clothing.

Transparent Fund Management and Cost-Efficient Appropriation of Funds

  • Decisions are made unanimously and members are informed about the destination of each credit granted;

  • Over 95% of funds are invested in business opportunities that initiate new activities;

  • Groups may invest their funds in collective activities, such as the purchase of agricultural supplies (seeds, fertilizer, etc.) or investments in joint resources and production storage;

  • Formation of new groups: Group leaders instruct one or even two new groups.


Swisscontact will accompany the buildup of new savings and credit groups in Burkina Faso. The Hirschmann Foundation will support the project from 2018 to 2020 with a total amount of CHF 450,000.