Based on field work in Tanzania, Zambia, Uganda and Ghana, in the paper we provide new evidence that young people’s engagement with savings groups in Africa is deeply embedded in networks of family and social relations. Savings group members rely on money that is given to them by husbands, boyfriends and parents in order to save, and give some of their shareouts and loans to family and friends.
This is particularly the case for younger members. Based on this evidence we argue that there is a tension between the conception of and focus on individual members that are so central to savings group programmes, and the reality of this socially embedded engagement. This tension has important implications for programme design, implementation and evaluation.