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These women chamas are the biggest scam ever created

By Brian Guserwa | August 28th 2021

Chamas. Also known as the monthly come-together for women who want to throw around money they don’t have. Better known as a merry-go-round, an apt name that captures both the silliness and the pointlessness of the activity. Whatever you call it, these things remain the biggest scam of the last few generations.

In theory, a chama is a congregation of women who share notions of entrepreneurship. These women come together to pool resources, which they then gift to one of the members of the coven.

Following the inaugural meet-and-gift, the gang then arrange similar meets-and-gifts every month hence, at which time different members of the group are blessed with the loot this time around. If the group consists of 12 ladies, it will take 12 meets-and-gifts for the treasure chest to complete a single revolution, and for the inaugural receiver of loot to see it again. Pretty nifty, no?

Of course, smart, sociable ladies who have their manicured fingers on the pulse of current events cannot just meet and exchange money like goons on Moi Avenue. No, it has to be an event, a celebration, complete with meals, entertainment, and of course, an unspoken battle of kitenges. All of which means that there must also be a designated host, an honour which is similarly rotational. So, too, a functional WhatsApp group where everything comes together, where the admin rules like a tyrannical African dictator, and where silly memes and forwards are strictly banned. Hapo kazi tu.

But what is so wrong about a bunch of ladies meeting and having some fun, you ask? Well, nothing. It is just that I have been burdened with the need to understand things and this monthly mafia meeting continues to elude me. I do not understand the Maths. If the group has five ladies, and each of them forks out 20k every month, then they will raise the impressive sum of 100k every month. Enough to pay for posters for a presidential run. Or, if you add something small, enough to represent yourself well at a ruracio.

Individually, though, one woman, let’s call her X, dishes out 20k every month for five months, after which she gets 100k back. It seems — and bear with me here, my high school Maths teacher was also a Pastor — that if we solve for X, we will discover it to have made zero profit in this duration. Surely, the monthly kongamanos cannot be about financial reward.

Perhaps it is the sense of belonging that makes them so appealing. Maybe as soon as one says ‘Hii pesa ni ya chama’, they immediately experience a mini-orgasm. Baba Kim can’t be the only one who goes out with his uncouth ‘boys’ all weekend. No, Mama Kim also has a consortium of similarly chaotic ladies who drink fast and laugh loud.

Maybe it’s the food. I will deny this if ever confronted, but I have partaken from the tabernacle of several chamas, and those women cook like they’re trying to make a point. The tea is actual tea. The mandazis are soft and pliant, unlike the lumpy oblong messes your kibanda makes. The chicken is actually cooked, and the stew doesn’t have carrots in it. If someone told me they are contributing money monthly just to have access to premium meals, I would not hold it against them. I’d simply ask if that chama is accepting new members.

And then there is gossip. A national pastime. An activity that gets boiled down to its fundamentals during chamas. Chamas are like UN Summits for gossip. I’m pretty sure there is an agenda, minutes, and a secretary with an impossibly neat handwriting, to keep track of whose husband is to be skewered during the August caucus.

So, everything kinda adds up, except the core function of the chama. You would be better off letting one of our banks play with your money. At least, there is an interest rate there. Even those terrorist loan apps will get you out of a bind faster than the sisterhood of the travelling funds. So what if they threaten to call your ex when you refuse to pay? You were meaning to check on them anyway.

If the founder of those suspect organisations started a political party, it would have a wheelbarrow as its emblem. They would probably go round yelling about bottom-up economics.

Or maybe it’s just me. Maybe I’m trying to understand something that should be enjoyed blindly, with your brain turned off.


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