Using tontines to run the economy

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French development agency (Agence française de développement)

Seminar Social life | Thursday June 19, 2003

The principle of the tontine, which is applicable throughout the world, appears straightforward : members join forces to create a kitty for their contributions and each person in turn receives the money collected. Study of the tontine auctions of the Bamiléké people of Cameroon show that the way it works can be very complex and sophisticated since its reliability depends on both rigorous financial management and an unfailing collective organisation. Do these traditional financial systems, with their nit-picking regulations and their very ritualised methods of functioning, not constitute a relic from the past which should soon disappear ? Or do their surprising performances with regard to the banking system and their role of social integration make them a model for a future economy which is more human and shows more solidarity than the pure economy, whose promises and failures our westernised societies have already explored ?

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This session was published in issue n°44 of the Journal de l'École de Paris du management, entitled Débrouillards et virtuoses.

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