Professor’s research on financial cooperatives in the Black diaspora contributes to new partnership

Caroline Hossein
(submitted photo)

The Ontario Co-operative Association (OCA), Meridian Credit Union and The Banker Ladies Council have announced a new collaboration to promote ROSCAs in the Canadian economy by creating a ROSCA Network.

ROSCAs (Rotating Savings and Credit Associations) are a centuries-old mutual aid financial model recognized for empowering individuals. A group of people work together to save and to pool money, which in turn goes to members on a democratic rotating basis. These cooperative groups are known by many different names within the African diaspora, including Susus, Chamas, Moziki, Gamayaa, Cheetu, Hua, Partner, Hagbad and Boxhand, among others. They are practiced around the world and here in Canada.

U of T Scarborough Associate Professor Caroline Shenaz Hossein is Canada Research Chair Tier 2 in Africana Development and Feminist Political Economy, and has facilitated the development of The Banker Ladies Council. “It grew out of the long-standing relationships I formed with women leading these hidden coop-banking groups as I researched the issue of financial exclusion and inequality,” says Hossein. Her research has demonstrated the value of informal institutions and that ROSCAs are a viable option to mainstream banking, and one that strengthens communities through democratically-controlled banks.

Hossein remains an advisor to the council, and her upcoming book, The Banker Ladies: Vanguards of Solidarity Economies and Community-based Banking features community-based research in a number of cities in Canada and the Caribbean.

Part of the partnership is a pledge from Meridian Credit Union, Ontario largest credit union, of $100,000 over multiple years to support The Banker Ladies Council’s mission to develop a healthy ROSCA Network to promote financial empowerment and resilience for marginalized citizens, especially women.  The OCA will also provide administrative services to the ROSCA Network projects and give the network a more formal place within the OCA.

“Giving ROSCAs a more formal place within the Ontario Co-operative Association, backed by Meridians financial and in-kind support, will enable this financial model to benefit more people in the Black community,” says Wanita Fonseka, UTSC alum and Senior Vice President Retail and Operations at Meridian.

The Banker Ladies Council’s Director Andria Barrett will lead the initiative. Hossein notes that Barrett is currently in Jamaica at the invitation of the country’s stock exchange, which wants to incorporate understanding of existing ROSCAs (typically called Partner) into the country’s social index for the country’s economy. “We’re going to open doors, start conversations, educate, advocate, and support ROSCA users in our province and across Canada,” says Barrett of the new partnership.