Person and Community in Contemporary Africa

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Community Based Research: Androscoggin Bank
African Immigrants’
Attitudes Towards Money & Banking
Bates College
Winter 2010
Prof. Elizabeth Eames
T.A. Chomba Kaluba ‘10
Gulaid Abdullahi ‘13, Diane Brackett ‘11, Kelly Coyne ‘13, Leah Elsmore ‘12, Josh Fancy ‘12
William Fearnley ‘13, Molly Gardner ‘11, Andrew Grant ‘13, Kenji Hayata ‘13, Ben Horn ‘12
J.B. Israel ‘11, Carter Kindley ‘11, Desmond Mushi ‘13, Cheri-Ann Parris ‘13, Frangely Ventura ‘11
Course Objectives for ANTH 228:
Person and Community in Contemporary Africa

Understand fundamentals of a distinctive moral philosophy
(including tensions & contradictions)
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Learn cultural sensitivity, adopt methodological flexibility,
tolerate ambiguity
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Relative emphasis on communal ownership & collective responsibility
affects attitudes towards resource allocation, wealth accumulation,
individualism, power
Find consistent cultural matrices within informal conversational speech
Discern patterned interactions behind seemingly spontaneous behavior
Make recommendations to Androscoggin Bank

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Convey implications of our findings on how the recently resettled may deal
with the power and danger of money, with saving, borrowing, & investing
Propose what a mutual adaptation between the New Mainers and L/A’s
formal banking system might look like
CBR: Methodology
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WHAT: Interviews and observation-based research
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WHO:
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Interviewers: Bates students
 3 groups conducted 15 interviews
 Each group had at least one student who has lived in Africa
Interviewees:
 Ethnic Somalis
 Somali Bantus
 Immigrants from 5 other sub-Saharan countries
Methodology

WHERE:
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
downtown Lewiston
Bates College library
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30 hours of interviews
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ANALYSIS:


shared findings
determined overarching themes re: banking
Background info on Africans in L/A

Motivations for migration:

PUSH
 Poverty
 Danger/political instability at home

PULL
 Economic
 Education
 Social/political conditions
Background

Many African immigrants first traveled through other countries/states
before settling in Lewiston
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Some immigrants followed their spouses or close kin
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Lewiston seen as a haven for its:


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low crime rates
affordable housing
good schools
African community
More about immigrants
“Even the cows are different here…”
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Large, extended families
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Tight-knit communities
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the younger generation is expected to take care of elders
sense of kinship, trust
practice of intracommunity aid
Emphasis on personal rather than professional/impersonal
relationships
Immigrant-owned stores largely cater to the Somali community
Remaining key points

Anti-immigration movement in 2002

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white supremacist demonstration & counter-demonstration
Many Immigrants are open to assimilation but like to stay
within tight-knit community

children born in America more readily assimilate
Significant cultural issues: Overview
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Importance of personal connection
Banking etiquette
Rotating savings societies
Charitable giving
Avoiding usury
Attitude towards accumulation
Financial needs

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Saving
Paying bills
Remittances
Borrowing for:
 Education
 Housing
 Business
 Travel
Religion: Islam
FIVE PILLARS
1.
Shahadah: Belief in one G-d and Muhammad as the prophet
2.
Salat: prayer 5x/day
3.
Siyam (Sawm): Fasting for Ramadan
4.
Hajj: Pilgrimage to the holy city of Mecca
5.
Zakat: charity, donation
Shari’ah Law - Riba (Interest)

Shari’ah = the "way" Muslims should live or the
"path" they must follow
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Where does the money come from?
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Compliance to usury prohibition may vary
Religious terminology

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
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Wadiah = custody, safekeeping
Mudharabah = profit sharing b/w investor and
entrepreneur
Bai’ Bithaman Ajil (BBA) = Deferred payment sale
Murabahah = Cost plus
Musyarakah = Joint venture/partnership to make profit
Ijarah Thumma Bai’ = Hire purchase
Wakalah = agency
Hibah = gift
African expectations of the Bank
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Some are financially literate while others know very little
about banking systems
Relationship b/w customer and employee should be
personal
Strictly PROFESSIONAL relationships are uncomfortable

One interviewee stated, “No one cares about you; it is
entirely about the job.”
Etiquette
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Personal relationships

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regular interaction w/ the same employee(s)
Same-sex interactions preferred
Many immigrants may have adopted handshakes as a way
of greeting, BUT:
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many Muslims believe that shaking hands is spiritually unclean,
and would have to wash themselves prior to worship

allow customers to initiate

Hugs are not likely to be accepted
Etiquette
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Offer the customer a seat, brochures,
commodities
Show particular respect to elder client
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If a translator is present, be sure to still devote your
attention to the client
Look at clients respectfully, but avoid
prolonged direct eye contact
Etiquette - Clothing
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Issues mostly pertain to female employees
Professional wear is sufficiently modest to
allay any fears
Etiquette - Documentation
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Interact with customers before presenting
documentation
Introduce the contract/document
VERBALLY with a thorough explanation
Written documentation should be
READABLE and CONCISE
ROSCAs and Ayuto
ROSCA = Rotating Savings and Credit Association
an association of community members who make
regular contributions to a fund that is given in whole
or in part to each contributor in turn
 form of credit rotation
 based on trust and community
 serves as social support network
 participants predominantly women
 obeys Islamic law
ROSCAs in the Somali community:
case studies in the UK

known as Ayuto or Hagbad in the Somali community
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7 to 20 women agree to regularly contribute a fixed
amount to a fund that is allocated to members in rotation
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joining a Hagbad requires commitment/obligation

because the system is trust based, there is flexibility

Order can change based on need
Remittances: Overview
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VERY important part of many immigrant cultures
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Highly prevalent in Lewiston’s African community
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Sending money to relatives shows support and
gratitude
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It is almost—if not more—important than providing money for
what Americans tend to think of as “one’s own immediate
family”
Interviewees reported sending $ home to invest (ex:
real estate)
Remittances in Lewiston
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Remittances may be sent through a local community
member (“unofficial” process)

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person sending the remittances usually collects a certain amount
of $ as a fee
Mutual trust ensures that the $ gets to the correct destination
Housing
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Large market, BUT
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Mortgages = problematic
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Families try to avoid loans at all costs
Many Somali families use a rotating system
Education: Loans for college
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High tuition is problematic for many immigrants in
Lewiston
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Interest-bearing loans = not option for strict Muslims
Financial literacy and education
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Main sources of misunderstanding:
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language barriers
general complexities of the banking system
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late fees, overdraw fees, etc.
Possible solutions re: Education
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hire part-time translator to explain the system to
new customers
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create a website in multiple languages
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create brochures in multiple languages outlining
the banking system
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hold financial literacy workshops
Recommendations for Androscoggin Bank
Hire a Community Liaison
The Liaison will:
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Bring in new clients
Show the Bank’s initiative and hospitality
Interpret for members of the community who are not
proficient in English
Help members gain competence in financial matters
The Liaison should:
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Speak Somali, Maay-Maay, and Swahili (ideally)
Represent the new immigrant community
Role of younger people
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Many of the younger people speak better
English
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In the absence of a translator, be willing to
engage your clients’ children who can help in
conversation
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Respect the age hierarchy as much as possible
Shari’ah Compliant Banking
•
Interviewees expressed the importance of owning a
home and educating their children, but
•
•
•
it is sinful if such things are acquired while KNOWINGLY using
interest (money-begetting-money)
Some people do not know that American banks are centrally
organized around interest
People understand that the Bank needs to pay for its
operating expenses, so interest may be replaced with
fees and then money is considered safe
Remittance
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Since many immigrants send money home to relatives, it would be
worthwhile to inform them about transferring $ from one account to
another.
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Shared remittance accounts would make it possible for families in Africa to
access money without additional exchange rates and fees.
The Bank could establish a money-sending program that sends sums
using current exchange rates and small fees.
Documentation should be kept to a legal minimum, handled with cultural
sensitivity.
Financial Literacy
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Many immigrants have never used a bank
before coming to America
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Even those who have some experience are
unsure of how to access the formal financial
system
Establish financial literacy training
programs
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Liaison could lead these programs
More suggestions
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GIFTING: Consider giving gifts at first meetings,
community events, and during religious holidays.
POSTERS, MULTILINGUAL ADVERTISEMENTS
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Lisbon St. establishments
Local publications
ORAL COMMUNICATION: Install a multi-lingual calling
system to provide banking advice
Remember this!
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Although many of the people living in Lewiston are Somali, there are
many other Africans of different ethnicities in residence
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Not all Africans are Muslim, and many local Muslims are not African
Closing / Q & A / Discussion
Thanks to CJ Conrad, Sallie Wilson, and Paul Anderson
of Androscoggin Bank for engaging us in this project.
Student researchers
Gulaid Abdullahi ‘13
Diane Brackett ‘11
Kelly Coyne ‘13
Leah Elsmore ‘12
Josh Fancy ‘12
William Fearnley ‘13
Molly Gardner ‘11
Andrew Grant ‘13
Kenji Hayata ‘13
Ben Horn ‘12
J.B. Israel ‘11
Carter Kindley ‘11
Desmond Mushi ‘13
Cheri-Ann Parris ‘13
Frangely Ventura ‘11
*TA: Chomba Kaluba ‘10
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