Savings and Credit Groups
for Small Businesses
in Mali

A Development Cooperation
Pilot Project

The Road to Self-Employment

Together with Swisscontact, the Hirschmann Foundation launched a development cooperation project in Mali’s Sikasso region.

Proactive young women and men in Mali are given the opportunity to build up their own income-generating businesses, so that they become able to make a living and provide for their families.

Craftsmen and farmers who have completed their vocational training thereby take top priority.

The project is closely tied to the activities of Swisscontact that are conducted in the service of the Swiss Agency for Development and Cooperation (SDC).

These activities include the promotion of professional education and of the local economic development in Mali.

WASA Savings and Credit Groups

The WASA savings and credit groups are based on a Kenyan model that was developed and successfully put into practice by Swisscontact in 2006.

The project enables people and groups of people who usually only have limited access to financial services to finance their own business plans.

10 to 30 people typically unite to form a small WASA group (Wasa means "Saving leads to Gratification“ in the local language Bambara).

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. .

Strengths of the Project

Thanks to the savings and micro credit system WASA, thousands of people are given access to savings options and loans: Since the project launch, 227 WASA groups involving 5,231 members (4,096 resp. 78% of which are women) have been founded.

As a result, group members have been able to:

  • establish their own income-generating business activities;
  • create permanent employment for themselves and their relatives;
  • afford school fees, health care, and clothing.

Strengths of the WASA System

  • Transparency of fund management: Decisions are made unanimously and members are informed about the destination of each credit that is granted;
  • New business activities: 95% of funds are invested in business opportunities that initiate new activities;
  • Collective activities: Groups may invest their funds in collective activities, such as the purchase of agricultural supplies (seeds, fertilizer, etc.) or investments in cereal stocks;
  • Formation of new groups: Group leaders instruct other groups.

WASA Brochure

In 2013, the Hirschmann Foundation cooperated in compiling a WASA brochure about the project.

The brochure describes the mode of operation of WASA groups, as well as their advantages, limits and perspectives.

The aim of the brochure is to give alphabetized group instructors something at hand that allows them to form and accompany new groups in the future – independently from Swisscontact.

The brochure was published in French and in the local language Bambara.

Brochure as PDF


Swisscontact accompanies the buildup of savings and credit groups.

The Hirschmann Foundation contributes an annual fund of 100,000 CHF during eight years (2010 - 2017).