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.

Mara Panga Savings and Credit Groups

The savings and credit groups of Burkina Faso are called Mara Panga, which denotes the strength of saving – “Mara“ meaning ”to save“ in the language of Dyula, ”Panga“ meaning “strength” in the language of Moore. The two languages are the main languages of Bourkina Faso.

The project enables people who usually only have limited access to financial services to finance their own business plans using financial means that are accumulated within their own village.

The savers receive interests and regular repayments of their savings.

The savings and credit processes are made transparent to everyone involved.

10 to 30 people typically unite to form a small Mara Panga group. The group elects a committee, consisting of a president, a secretary, a cashier, and two money counters

The groups meet on a weekly basis for inpayments and outpayments. Each member saves a weekly minimum amount of CFA-Franc 200 (Franc de la Communauté Financière d'Afrique); the maximum amount lies at CFA 1000. Each member owns a savings book that is stamped every time that he or she pays in CFA 200. Thus, members can count their inpayments even if they are not able to read or write.

A pool of collective savings accumulates from which the group awards loans with fixed costs (frais de service) and repayment terms to interested craftsmen, traders and farmers. As experience in Mali has shown, up to 80% of female villagers typically join one of the savings groups.

The dates of outpayments, the amount of the loan and the service fee, which is determined by the group, are recorded in the member’s savings book. The sum of the amount of the loan and the service fee equal the amount owed. Furthermore, each repayment and the corresponding due dates are being documented.

DThe amount of a loan may not exceed three times the amount of the member’s savings contributions. The maximum duration of a loan is three months. The service fee may not exceed 10% per month.

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;

  • All transactions, inpayments and outpayments are processed during weekly group meetings and are thus directly made transaprent to all group members;

  • 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 partner in Bourkina Faso is the Réseau des Caisses Populaires du Bourkina. The Hirschmann Foundation will support the project from 2018 to 2020 with a total amount of CHF 450,000.