Chamas and Table Banking A Viable Source of Funding

Are Chama’s Actually Table Banking Groups?

Over the weekend while chatting way forward with friends, on how we could invest or venture into business, someone mentioned something about the table banking concept. Interestingly I realized from the conversation, most of us didn’t understand it at all. I mean, what is it anyway? How does it work? How is it different from the chama (informal savings and investments groups) concept we know so well here in Kenya?

I remember for example some of my friends in Campus who had Chama’s for raving. They used to put money together and used part of it for the night. This helped them save and control their expenditure. They usually went out as a group and at the end of the semester they would divide the savings plus the interest earned from loaning. (Remember that these were the days when most were broke university and college students).According to Growthhub article Chama Pesa- The Social Savings System: Quick Fact Sheet, Kenya has approximately 1.2 million Chama’s, the registered ones are 300,000 and an estimated 900,000 unregistered Chama’s. Registered Chama’s are known to manage about $4 billion per year in member savings, an average of $11,000 per Chama. 12 million Kenyans (33%) are members of Chama’s and many are members of more than one chama simultaneously. Milele alliance, Mapato Group and Awesome group are examples of successful Chamas which have wealth and influence in Kenya.

Joyful Women Organization ,an NGO providing financial resources to women to engage in livelihood projects through table banking concept, started in 2009 with a handful of groups. The program has now grown to 431 groups and 10,000 women who have accumulated a total of over 100,000,000 Kenyan shillings or over $1 million which they put to work in a wide variety of income generating projects. Nancy, Salonist and Mpesa shop owner, is a good example as one beneficiary of table banking .She started off with a small salon, from the loan she had taken from the group. She managed to pay back in four months then opted to take a much bigger amount so as to venture into boda boda business by buying one motorbike. Right now she owns three motorcycles and a taxi, which all of them gives her an average of 4,000 kshs per day. Her success and financial stability is as a result of the group she joined 4 years ago, which has helped her family build a house and educate children.

The Chama vs Table Banking

According to Munene Kilongi’s definition in the article Chama the best choice for tjommies,Chama is a Swahili word for a group of people—anywhere between two and more than 100—with a common binding interest. It can be categorized further into self-help groups, Merry-go-rounds and investment groups.

On the other hand Table-banking is a group funding strategy where members of a particular group meet once every month, place their savings, loan repayments and other contributions on the table then borrow immediately either as long term or short term loans. Chama’s and Table Banking groups have become lately a source of capital for entrepreneurs since their interest rates are very friendly and easily accessible compared to banks and micro-finance.

How can we differentiate a chama from Table banking group? Do we have any similarities? Let’s look at some of Table Banking’s unique characteristics:


Before any financial institution lends out money, it always checks to find if the person borrowing has the ability to return it. Hence the need for something which will be pledged as security for repayment of the loan, which will be taken to cover it if they are unable to repay. In table banking, the difference is that the group guarantees you, and your household items (TVs, Chairs for example) are the only collateral you need to qualify for the loan. This is very helpful to most entrepreneurs who are looking for capital to start a business.


While banks, microfinance institutions and Chama’s are busy evaluating someone’s possessions to see if they qualify for their loans, table banking on the other hand gives high priority to those without to improve their financial status. Table-banking methodology is founded on the principle that credit should be accepted as a human right to anyone, thus no one should be denied that opportunity of borrowing money.


According to Joywo (Joyful Women Organization),Table-banking methodology is not based on assessing the material possession of a person; it is based on the potential of a person. To them they believe that all human beings, including the poorest, are endowed with endless potential. We may have a number of poor entrepreneurs who have brilliant ideas and are looking for money to pursue their dream just the same way as a middle class entrepreneur


Poor women are the ones making majority of Table Banking groups in the country, which usually according to the registration rules should not be less than 15 members. Women try to identify themselves with these groups, since all of them live the same lifestyle and none will fill more superior than the other or bring the issue of class – unlike banks where mortgage loans are viewed to be for the middle class and rich people only.


Joining a table banking group is so easy, you only need to find a an active one that you are very familiar with the members then pay the membership amount and start making you contribution .For the groups to be registered with organizations such as Joywo they have to meet the following requirements

  • Must be duly registered with the ministry of gender and social services
  • Must have not less than 15 members.
  • Must have legally elected officials.
  • The male gender must not exceed 30% of total group members and they should not be officials
  • Must have a set of bylaws / constitution
  • The group should abide by the rules and regulations of JOYWO in regard to Table-banking.




11 thoughts on “Chamas and Table Banking A Viable Source of Funding”

  1. Julia kariuki says:

    would wish to know more about t. banking coz my friends and I wish to start one

    1. bosire douglas says:

      wonderful i need to join

    2. paul john namunyu says:

      Yes I do. Iam a male person interested in this field of finance and banking

  2. eunice says:

    Table banking is a good idea.I have liked it.

    1. StartupAcademy says:

      Hi Joe,

      Thanks for sharing!

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  5. Dorine Ngoe Atieno says:

    It’s a great deal indeed need a good one please

  6. Raissa says:

    Hi, I would like to know where table banking members keep their money. Do they keep it at the bank?

  7. Jackline says:

    can I join without a group

  8. winfred Mbugua says:

    how long is long term loan(how many months) and is the interest paid at once or on reducing balance?

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