How To Create A Successful Self Help Group in Kenya

Self help group

One of my New Year resolutions was starting a self-help group (chama) with a few friends.

I was hopeful and eager to experience an economic breakthrough as I’ve seen happen for members of chamas.


So, I quickly sent out the word to friends I thought would be interested, and we immediately created a WhatsApp group to discuss the way forward.

Long story short, this is all we ever did.

At that time I did not understand why our group never went further than an inactive WhatsApp group, until recently when I sat down with members of Kaimuru Self Help Group, a team of youths making huge economic strides because of the chama they formed.

These men, after explaining to them what happened to our group, shared the following tips:

Have a set economic standard requirement for every member.

Every interested person must have a source of income that guarantees they will be able (or at least try) to pay the monthly contributions.

David Irungu, chairman of Kaimuru Self Help Group explained that the moment you allow people who do not have the economic power to consistently and continually make the required contributions, the chama will fail.

A chama is first the contributions, before the investment.

Every interested person must have a source of income that guarantees they will be able (or at least try) to pay the monthly contributions.

Do a lifestyle audit

Sounds incredible and tasking? Well, would you trust your investments with people you don’t know? It is not enough to just know their name, find out where they come from, where they live, what they do for a living, who their spouse(s) is.

All members of the group should have sufficient information about each other, to avoid any bad surprises.

Also, this is important to enable members to ensure everyone has the same vision and mission so that there are no criminals who might be looking for opportunities to swindle members.

Draft a Constitution

What are your goals as a group? What are the strategies you have set down? Who are the members, and how does one get to become a member? What are the rules of the group? What are the rules governing lending, contribution, meeting attendance, etc.?

A constitution is the group guide. Once this has been drafted and approved, every member gets a copy that they sign and submit.

The signing process ensures that members have agreed to the terms and conditions set down to be part of the group. Even better, they have also agreed to the investment strategies set forth.

For example, at Kaimuri Self Help Group, all members are not just required to sign copies of the agreement, but their spouses MUST sign as well. This ensures inclusion of the family unit in the chama, where in case of anything the spouse can always attest to the signing of the agreement.

Related: Sample Constitution of a Self-Help Group in Kenya

Register your group

All Self Help Groups should be formally registered by the county government of Kenya.

After drafting your constitution, you are now a group with a solid direction good enough to be formally recognized and listed by the government.

Legally registering of the chama also gives the body powers to transact business in its name. For example, Kaimuru Self Help Group recently purchased a parcel of land in their name, as a chama.

Mind each others’ business

The group was created to foster economic empowerment among the members, right? Start by supporting each others’ business.

If there are members who run a business complementary to another then they can merge and work together. For example, one member of Kaimuru Self Help Group runs an eatery, and another runs a bodaboda business, the bodaboda guy delivers food supplies to the eatery. Win-Win situation.

Businesses usually intertwine, where there’s a way one can complement the other. This goes back to knowing your chama members very well, so you can determine how you can support each other.

Elect Group officials

The three most important slots for anybody should be filled; this includes the Chairman, Secretary, and Treasurer. Why? For accountability and organization.

Roles under these titles should also be defined, written down, and put in a document (preferably the constitution) so that every official understands and agrees to their scope of their work.

David Irungu, Chairman of Kaimuru Self Help Group, had this to say,

‘As chairman, I ensure every strategy we have laid down is met, and the group is well functioning. However, we are a group of friends, with similar goals and desires, and so a lot of teamwork is evident.’

A few extra points to ensuring your Self Help Group is successful include;

Look out for professionals in matters business and finance, and invite them to attend your meetings and offer financial advice to the team.

For example, Kaimuru Self Help Group works closely with officials from Equity Bank and Youth Enterprise Development Fund.

Table-banking! The money collected should not just sit in the account waiting for investment ideas. Let members borrow and pay back with interest. This is how many chamas are growing.

By the end of a year, the money saved will probably have quadrupled, depending on how much interest was set.

Start a welfare saving account, from which members can borrow. This account should be separate from the usual chama account.

The logic here is spreading your investments in different baskets, where, for example, if you decide to purchase land, you don’t have to dip your hands in the same single account members have to borrow from every time. Spread your eggs in different baskets.

Get a regular meeting place, and a set date for meetings. And, set a fine for late coming and absence without apology.

There you go! Looking back, equipped with these tips, I would have been able to create a more functional chama group and started off activities. Now that we know, we can go back to the drawing table and start again.



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