Tuesday, January 10, 2012

Ϊk’ub and ΪdΪr – valuable traditional socio-economic institutions

You may ask any Ethiopian anywhere in the country (or for that matter, anywhere under the sun where they‘re found in abundance) and you‘ll soon find out they‘re members of one or both of these informal socio-economic institutions called Ϊk’ub and ΪdΪr (sorry, if I oversimplify). Ϊk’ub and ΪdΪr are the two most common, lasting, and efficient time-honored socio-economic institutions Ethiopians long ago created. Let‘s see them both.
Ϊk’ub is an association which are often set up by any small group of people (friends, colleagues or just neighbors) in order to provide substantial rotating fund for members with the intention of improving their lives and living conditions. The members of Ϊk’ub usually gather under a tree shade (nowadays, at any convenient place) to discuss and find panaceas to their economic problems. This alliance could be provisional or lasting, depending on the financial needs of the members. Ϊk’ub is more flexible and accessible than the modern banks and requires minimal paper work; they simply operate with available human and/or material resources.

As a result, people without formal education are not discouraged to join. So, from the shoe-shiners and vendors on the streets or generally, from the rank and file to the highest levels of the Ethiopian society, almost every-body is a member of one or more of these Ϊk’ubs. Therefore, for a small payment each week or month, members of Ϊk’ub can keep a steady influx of money to help themselves on a rotational basis. For instance, Ϊk’ub enables a family, including the wealthy, to acquire the necessary funding for occasions such as, weddings, or activities as constructing a house, or starting a micro-business. The rotating fund is a means to make investments that one would normally never consider making due to unavailability of such hoarded money at one time.
ΪdΪr, on the other hand, is a long term union usually formed among large numbers of fellow dwellers, workers or various groups of people to raise funds that would be used during emergencies, such as death within these groups and their loved ones. ΪdΪr members are required to attend funerals and must always be ready to help the grieving family (actually, in recent times, ΪdΪrs have widened their scope of functions and started helping out even the sick monetarily). In fact, the various ΪdΪrs in the country have done commendable jobs by being critical sources of social stability to the needy. The weekly or monthly membership fee for ΪdΪr is minimal and affordable by all. That‘s why ΪdΪr is sometimes described as group life insurance‘.

Though not recorded per se, Ϊk’ub and ΪdΪr have been crucial informal institutions that have salvaged millions of families from a lot of big and small (usually, off the record) fiscal slumps at various times; anchored in just indigenous knowledge and mutual confidence, they have effectively addressed the socio-economic needs of our society in a sustainable way. What‘s more, these traditional associations attach no other definite criteria to enroll as a member, other than the willingness and commitment to regularly pay and help out each other. Therefore, they were able to transcend all linguistic, religious, or ethnic boundaries, making our society more stable and cohesive. Could these bodies continue to serve now (as they used to) to overcome people‘s local financial needs in the era of international economic downturn? Who knows, time will tell.

Məlkam SamΪnt – Have a great week!

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