By Matilda Nzioki

How did you come together to form your chama?

We have been friends for a very long time. We used to socialise together, then we decided we could benefit financially from our friendship. It was the women who came up with the idea of a chama.

After many meetings, we settled on the name Ruby, borrowed from the jewel. Our chama company is called African Ruby Investments Limited (ARIL).

Some members of ARIL during a team building trip to Nanyuki.

We started out with nine members. Two of us had to drop out because they were not committed to paying the contribution and attending meetings. There are two men in our group — men nowadays have seen the value of chamas.

What type of a chama is yours?

We are a limited company. We started out as a business in 2006 so that we could open a bank account. After operating as a business for two years, we were able to establish the serious members. We then became a limited company in 2008 as it is easier to buy and sell as a company than as a business. Moreover, as a limited company, we are safer taking loans as claims would not affect us directly, should that happen by bad luck. Our Memorandum and Articles of Association govern us. The company has grown and we hope to grow old in it.

What do you think works best for you?

A chama is like a marriage; you must have something in common. We are people of diverse professional fields — accountants, lawyers, doctors, bankers, advertising executives and communication specialists. What we have in common is friendship. This keeps us together and probably will for a long time. Only your friends can understand you, and we all understand why we are in the chama.

Our professional diversity also works to our advantage. Case in point is when the accountant does our accounts or when the lawyer contributes her expertise in dealing with the legal aspects of the group.

We also go on holiday together for team building purposes. It’s easy because we are friends. We were recently in Elementaita and Malindi and are planning to go to the Mara this year. The trips help us to unwind. Our account pays for a portion of the trip, say the accommodation. That way, we get to enjoy a quality holiday without having to dig deep into our pockets.

Tell us more about your chama…

We always start our meetings, which we hold once a month, with a word of prayer. Attendance is mandatory. A member can be excused from attendance only with very good reason. We meet in quiet restaurants in town. The last person to arrive during a meeting is supposed to pay the bill, which helps with time-keeping — most come in good time. Each month, we pay Sh3,000 each. We have discussed raising the amount higher with time if all goes well for each one of us.

We hold elections every year to rotate various duties like chairmanship, treasurer or vice-chair.

The chama members at one of their meetings. [Pictures: Courtesy/Standard]

Although we are open to people joining the group, they have to be vetted. They will then have to pay a certain amount of money because we have progressed.

Apart from the seven members, we have others who we call ‘ARILettes’. Those are our children. We want to leave a legacy for them and they will inherit this company in future.

What have you done so far as an investment company?

We have bought shares and land. We are also on the look out for unique investment opportunities. We have been conned before and our case is in court. So we are careful before we invest, always investigating the opportunities.

At the moment, we have no loans. We decided as a group not to take loans for the first five years. We will get one when we really need to.