Accepted paper:

Regulation of the grassroots mutual help practices among urban communities in Dar Es Salaam: economic empowerment or the opposite?


Oxana Ivanchenko
Petr Popov (Institute for African Studies)

Paper short abstract:

Based on the field research conducted in Dar Es Salaam in september-october 2013 this paper will focus on popular mutual help groups among urban residents and their interactions with the government and NGO’s after the emergence of a state regulated mutual aid initiative called vicoba (“pocket”- swahili).

Paper long abstract:

The distinctive feature of contemporary Dar Es Salaam as well as most of the African cities is the existence of an unregulated economy, as well as the spread of informal networks and various socio-cultural practices unregulated by the state. One of the popular economic everyday activities practiced among Tanzanians are mutual aid groups and societies. As a rule, these organizations are unofficial and not registered. Recently the most popular organizations were: kufa na kuzikana ("if somebody dies"), upatu ("circle"), mchezo ("game"), which are different in their social functions, but still mainly focused on contributing money for some special events in families of members (funeral, wedding, illness, birth etc). Nowadays some of these organizations get governmental support, one of the recent initiatives is vicoba - a state regulated initiative, aimed at microcrediting and helping members to start a small businesses. Some of the local urban residents we have been interviewing in our research prefer to join vicoba, but some give reasons for leaving and keeping their own unregulated mutual aid groups. Our paper will consider various examples of how traditional grassroots mutual aid groups are operating. We will describe and compare their structures and purposes of establishment. We will compare them with the state-regulated vicoba and finally will focus on the challenges and positive moments that this new initiative is opposed to the "old" mutual aid groups

panel P107
Forms of government and everyday economic practices: ethnography and comparison