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Conceptualisations and Practices of Resource Exchange and ‘Saving’: A Case-Study among Kamba in Kitui

February 3rd, 2022

Among the Kamba of Kitui the domains of resource exchange and ‘saving’ include everyday Kamba terms (e.g. mukilye (uplifting)) that are ideologically charged . Characteristically, they entail implicitly understood Kamba values and norms of behaviour that are generally identified with among the Kamba of Kitui.

Linguistic findings highlight the agency of the borrower and indicate that the borrowing/lending interaction starts with a ‘need’. The verb for ‘lend’ derives from the root form ‘borrow’. Literally, it refers to a helpful causation of borrowing, thus portraying the lender as mediating the process of ‘borrowing’. This resonates with the “credit-led savings”  proposition by Johnson which argues that “depositors will be attracted to deposit funds in formal institutions if an acceptable reciprocating borrowing proposition is clearly in place” (2012, 43).

Kamba of Kitui conceptualisations of ‘saving’ are characterized by two groups of terms: (1) kwia(put in a safe place)/kũsuvia (look after) and (2) kũumya (contribute)/kũmbanya (put together).  Rather than Western associations of ‘interest’ and ‘keeping money for future use’ these two groups highlight ‘individual or collective investing for a future need’ and ‘concerted action, interdependence and generalized reciprocity’ respectively as distinctive aspects of Kamba saving practices. Together, these implicit understandings highlight ‘saving’  as an (inter)active process of investing socially and financially.

The ethnographic analysis demonstrates that ‘belonging’ is a key condition for financial practices.

Download Working Paper – Conceptualisations and Practices of Resource Exchange and ‘Saving’: A Case-Study among Kamba in Kitui

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