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Supporting small enterprise through micro-credit

Mali is one of the poorest countries in the world. The unfavourable climate (two-thirds of the country is made up of desert) and severe health risks such as AIDS, malaria, and hepatitis constitute considerable impediments to economic development. Unemployment and underemployment are widespread and more than half of all adults are illiterate. Income is very unevenly distributed. Over 70% of the population lives on less than one dollar a day and barely has enough money to make important investments in their micro-enterprises. Access to financial services such as micro-finance plays a crucial role in Mali's development, generates employment and jobs, and stimulates the local economy.

The Project

The WASA project for savings and loan groups is based on a model developed by Swisscontact in Kenya and has been successfully implemented since 2006. This model makes it possible for individuals and groups with otherwise little access to financial services to finance their own commercial endeavours. Each group member sets aside a small amount of money, which is specified beforehand. Out of the amount accrued, the group awards one or more loans to its members at monthly meetings. These have interest rates and repayment terms specified by the group. For example, they may be tailored to purchasing seed inputs or tools, develop a vegetable market stall, or build a small workshop. This approach makes it possible to introduce financial services at the local level easily and quickly, with immediate benefits for the target group. A portion of the money the group saves serves as "social insurance" in case of illness or other emergency situations for members. Another portion of the savings is used to finance trainers who help the groups develop and implement their services. As group members all come from the same village, social pressure is high to pay back loans. Non-repayment rates are minuscule.

The project is closely tied to Swisscontact's activities to support vocational education and local economic development in Mali, which it implements through SDC financing.


Thanks to WASA's savings and micro-credit system, thousands of individuals are gaining access to savings and credit opportunities. Group members are able to:

  • develop their own income-generating activities
  • create long-term employment for themselves and family members
  • pay for school, health, and clothing expenses

Strengths of the WASA system

  • transparency in managing funds: decisions are made in concert and members understand the specific purpose of each credit awarded
  • new business activities: 95% of funds are invested in new business opportunities to stimulate commercial activities
  • groups also invest funds in group activities for purchasing agricultural products (seed, fertilizer, etc.) or investing in grain storage facilities
  • founding new groups: group leaders can start a second or even a third new group


Project website


Project countries

  • Mali

Project duration

2017 - 2020


  • SDC
  • Hirschmann Foundation

Working area


Swiss Foundation for Technical Cooperation
Hardturmstrasse 123
CH-8005 Zurich

Tel. +41 44 454 17 17
Fax +41 44 454 17 97
E-Mail info@STOP-SPAM.swisscontact.org