Stokvels: a valuable platform for ECD

by | Nov 22, 2015 | Blog, Our Investments

At first glance, stokvels (shared savings clubs) and early childhood development might seem like an unusual match. But due to their popularity in South Africa, stokvels offer a valuable social capital platform that can be leveraged to provide caregivers with early learning practices and tools to share with their children.

South Africa’s stokvel market is big. In 2011, more than 800,000 stokvels were operating in the country with approximately 11.4 million members, according to a study by research company African Response. The 2014 figures from African Response indicate that stokvel membership is at 8.6 million members, which represents 23% of the country’s adult population.

Stokvels are already used as key platforms for marketing by major brands. Brands employ ‘brand ambassadors’ who go to savings clubs and do product presentations. Given the size of the stokvel market, we want to adapt this commercial model for social good. This project will see ‘ECD Champions’ attending monthly savings meetings and communicating key ECD messages, while providing caregivers with resources to support the development of their children in practical ways. Their monthly inputs will be designed around the concept of ‘just one thing’ to do with your child this month. This is a simple and cost-effective way to reach a large number of caregivers.

The word ‘ukonga’ means to ‘to save’ or to ‘nurture.’ The project will put emphasis on telling caregivers how and why to engage with their children, instead of just telling them what to do. It is important for primary caregivers to understand and act on the importance of early stimulation so they can actively support their children’s early learning.

The project pilot will create five monthly inputs delivered to 720 primary caregivers at 48 savings groups in the Eastern Cape and Gauteng, allowing for comparison across different urban and rural contexts.

Lucy O’Keeffe, Director, Ubunye Foundation