This paper proposes a study to understand what perceptions, values and uses are attached
to money and other forms of wealth among the poor in Botswana. Further, the study
seeks to understand the means, traditionally or otherwise by which money is generated,
preserved and transferred. The study will also establish what patterns of saving,
investment and financial services exist among the poor and whether new ICTs such as
mobile phones could be used to provide access to financial services to the poor. Finally,
the study will make recommendations on locally-tailored methods of providing financial
services to the poor. Methodologically, a multiple case-study approach will be employed
by targeting seven poor communities in both rural and urban Botswana. A semi-structured
interview questionnaire will be designed to collect views of thirty key informants
from seven carefully selected poor community settlements. A focus group meeting in
form of a workshop will be conducted to investigate and make recommendations on suitable
and locally tailored methods of providing financial services to the poor. Data collected
will be analyzed using a qualitative software package. This study is significant because
it provides an in-depth analysis of how the poor use money and what intervention methods,
with ICTs or otherwise, can be used to make them financially secure.
Beatrice Magembe, Alice Shemi
About the Researcher(s)
Beatrice Magembe holds a Bachelor of Commerce degree with a major in Accounting from the University
of Nairobi, Kenya and a Master of Business Administration degree from Colorado State
University. She is currently a Senior Lecturer in the Department of Accounting and
Finance at the University of Botswana.
Alice Shemi has a Bachelor of Science degree from University of Zambia and Master of Business
Administration in Information Systems from University of Hull, UK. She is a Senior
Lecturer in Business Information Systems, Department of Accounting and Finance, University
Synopsis of Research Results
This study focused on gaining an understanding of the perceptions, values and uses
that are attached to money and other forms of wealth among the poor who earn less
than US$1 in Botswana. It also sought to establish the patterns of saving, investment
and financial services that exist for the rural and urban poor. The study also investigated
the use of mobile phones, mobile banking, and other locally-tailored methods that
can assist in the provision of suitable financial services to the poor.
Qualitative information was obtained from semi-structured face-to face interviews
and observations of the research participants provided the main source of data for
analysis. Multiple case studies were undertaken in six different locations of the
poor in Botswana to provide a contextual in-depth understanding of financial issues
affectingthe poor. Individual stories were also obtained from eleven persons from
a township in Gaborone with the aim of getting in-depth stories of how the poor lived
on less than a US dollar a day. A focus group session was further conducted to gather
more stories affecting the poor.
Our findings revealed that money is a very significant commodity among the poor in
Botswana who earn less than one US dollar per day, as they state ‘Money is life’.
Money determines the number of things one is able to do in society. There was an alienation
of the poor from saving in the formal banking system as they do not meet the minimum
banking requirement. The supply-side of financial services does not provide relevant
information for those who earn less than US$1. The poor have carved out their own
way of survival. Some keep or hide their money at home or reserve with friends for
safe keeping. Saving is also used in the Motshelo system (where they contribute a
certain amount of money each month and buy food at the end of the year so that they
share). Some Motshelo systems require members (usually 6 ) to contribute a fixed amount
every month which is given to a member on a rotational basis. Alternatively, there
is funeral insurance with funeral proprietors, which most people have registered for.
Our respondents earn very irregular income, which is mostly used to meet short-term
needs. They rent the cheapest accomodation which is usually not in good shape and
also unsafe. There is also a strong dependence on family ties and the community to
assist in time of emergencies. Very few have kept their money in form of livestock.
The current practices to assist the poor did not work very well, thus making the poor
more marginalized. The government’s food-for-work (popularly known as Ipelegeng) which
gives marginalized people ‘temporary jobs’ does not offer permanent jobs and pays
very little money. On the supply side, the financial system in Botswana has not yet incorporated the
poor in the system and the use of mobile phones to deliver financial services to the
rural and urban poor is not offered.
On the use of ICTs, this study established that most respondents were computer and
internet illiterate. The use of mobile phones for communication is very common, but
not for banking purposes. With a climate that is very unrealiable, most people who
earn less than a dollar a day in Botswana have no background of subsistence farming.
They need various forms of assistance and collaboration from other organizations,
and the financial sector to help them succeed with one project or another. Currently,
very few organizations, if any, have taken bold steps to assist the poor.