Susu means “little by little” and also “to plan” in Ghana’s Twi language. Members of a Susu contribute a set amount of money regularly, which is then pooled together and given to each member in turn over a defined period. The bulk sum allows members to accumulate capital, making it easier for them to embark on business ventures, make larger purchases, pay for school fees, weddings, or funerals, and fulfill other needs. While this is the loose structure, each Susu group has its own set of rules.
Susu is not just about money, however. The purpose is not profit, but the pooling and sharing of resources for the benefit of all members. Typically they are democratic, with board members elected to make decisions on behalf of the group. What’s more, the practice is grounded, as the article’s authors note, “in the African effort to maintain community life.”
Research has shown that Susu predates colonialism, but its existence outside of the dominant market system means that it has remained somewhat hidden and unacknowledged. Yet it’s the informal nature of Susu systems that make them particularly useful—they are flexible and dynamic, able to mobilize quickly based on the shifting needs of members. They also provide a way to make and maintain strong social ties through mutual aid and democratic decision-making.