I spend most of my time in Africa helping to set up savings groups. These are small informal associations, made up of 15-25 people (mostly women) who regularly meet to save. The money is used as a loan fund, from which anyone in the group can borrow, paid back with interest - at a rate set by the group. At the end of a year all the loans are paid back (defaulting is very rare) and the money is shared out in proportion to what each person has saved. The returns are very high, averaging between 20-30%, because no-one receives a salary and the ‘office’ is usually under a tree! No wonder then that members prefer to save their money in the group instead of a bank, where they get no returns and charges eat away at their savings. I am constantly amazed to be paid for doing this and, in 44 years in development work, have never had such fun and felt so rewarded.
(This originally appeared in the Guardian Newspaper Unusual Jobs section).