Sunteți pe pagina 1din 8

The Esusu: A Credit Institution of the Yoruba Author(s): William R.

Bascom Source: The Journal of the Royal Anthropological Institute of Great Britain and Ireland, Vol. 82, No. 1 (Jan. - Jun., 1952), pp. 63-69 Published by: Royal Anthropological Institute of Great Britain and Ireland Stable URL: . Accessed: 08/02/2011 02:47
Your use of the JSTOR archive indicates your acceptance of JSTOR's Terms and Conditions of Use, available at . JSTOR's Terms and Conditions of Use provides, in part, that unless you have obtained prior permission, you may not download an entire issue of a journal or multiple copies of articles, and you may use content in the JSTOR archive only for your personal, non-commercial use. Please contact the publisher regarding any further use of this work. Publisher contact information may be obtained at . . Each copy of any part of a JSTOR transmission must contain the same copyright notice that appears on the screen or printed page of such transmission. JSTOR is a not-for-profit service that helps scholars, researchers, and students discover, use, and build upon a wide range of content in a trusted digital archive. We use information technology and tools to increase productivity and facilitate new forms of scholarship. For more information about JSTOR, please contact

Royal Anthropological Institute of Great Britain and Ireland is collaborating with JSTOR to digitize, preserve and extend access to The Journal of the Royal Anthropological Institute of Great Britain and Ireland.





Associate Professor Anthropology, of Northwestern University of The esusu,one of the economicinstitutions the time (usuallyeveryweek) and place, undera presia whichresemble dent; thetotalamountis paid overto each member Yoruba of Nigeria,' has elements club, in rotation. Thisenablesa poor manto do something and a savings scheme union,an insurance fcredit wherea lump sum is required. There fromall of these. The esusu(esusu', worth-while but it is distinct this system." In the Yoruba make are laws regulating ,est) is a fundto whicha groupof individuals of fixedcontributions moneyat fixedintervals; the Dictionary(1937, Pt. II, p. 72), esu (i.e., esusu) is by total amount contributed the entire group is definedas " a club organizedfor the purpose of assisting members moneymatters." in in assignedto each of themembers rotation, the a from club in thatmany Aside from the Yoruba, there is an excellent Actually esusudiffers and amongtheneighbouringesusugroupshold no meetings thatthemembers of description thisinstitution are Nupe (Nadel, 1942,p. 371-3), whereit is knownas frequently not knownto one another. Even the the same head of the esusugroupmay not know who all the dashi (adashi in Hausa), with essentially are. Moreover, term the esusurefers the to patterns.2 It has also been recordedamong the members fundrather thanto the groupof contributors.One whereit is knownas susu and Negroesof Trinidad, whichcan may say " I took myesusu(money)to-day,"but one retention an whereit is obviously African (or 1947, must say " I wentto the meeting place) of my (Herskovits, be tracedback to a Yoruba origin p. 76-7, 292). In Nigeria the esusu group is com- esusuto-day." The number contributors, size of thecontriof the club." monlyknownin Englishas a " contributions butionsand the length theintervals whichthey of at on literature the Yoruba themIn the extensive mentioned;the are made varyfromone groupto another. For the selves,the esusuis onlyinfrequently however,we may imagine is most detailed description that of Aji?afe (1924, purpose of illustration, a simplecase wheretwenty members contribute one p. 48-9), whichis quotedherein its six parts(a-f) in shilling each,monthly.At theend of twenty months, (1921, p. 119) states full in the footnotes. Johnson the for custom clubbing whichcompletes cyclein thiscase, each member that briefly "' Esusu is a universal will have contributed or twenty shillings one pound, aid. of together a numberof personsfor monetary and will,on one occasion,have received amount the A fixedsum agreedupon is givenby each at a fixed of one pound in return.3 In theory, least, each at member paid back in one,lump sum exactly is what 1 Field workin Ife and Igana, Nigeria,in 1937-38,was made he has paid in contributions the during courseof one possible by a fellowshipfrom the Social Science Research Council of New York City, under the sponsorship of the cycle.4 There is neithergain nor loss, but the
3 societycalledEsusu. Ajj?afestates:" Thereis a certain This society deals withmonetary matters only,and it helps itsmembers save and raisemoney to thus: fixed (a) Everymember shallpay a certain sum of money at or regularly a fixed time(say every fifth ninth day). And one of the subscribing shall takethetotalamount members thussubscribed his or her own personal for use. The next subscription be taken another shall by member;thisshall so continue until member taken." has rotationally every 4 The deviations from ruleare discussed below. this

Department of Anthropology, Northwestern University. is Acknowledgment also made to the Viking Fund of New on York Cityand to the Committee Research of the Graduate School of Northwestern Universityfor assistance in the preparationof thismanuscript. 2 On returningto Nigeria for furtherwork among the Yoruba in 1950-51, I learned that it is also found among the Ibo and Ibibio, and that in the area wherethese two peoples adjoin the settlementof esusu accounts constitutesa high percentageof the cases triedin the courts. In this area it is as kinown esusuoi by the Ibo word etato.



is advantage themembers thattheyhave available,, individualswho are not able to affordthe entire to of separately. Thus a contribution one a largesum of moneywithwhichto make expensive contribution who two individuals purchases or to meet debts of considerablesize. shilling may be dividedbetween threeindividuals two of Furthermore, attempt made to pay the fundto give sixpenceeach, between an is contributes at each whilethethird members timeswhentheyhave special need of it whomgivethreepence who givefourthree individuals or for particular purposes. Althoughthe mechanism sixpence, between differs, functionresemblesthat of instalment pence each. These several individualscount as a its single memberof the esusu, and when their tum in buying Western society. the The size ofthecontributions varieswidely fromone comesto receive esusufundtheyshareit proporesusu group to another, althoughone penny,three- tionatelyaccordingto theircontributions. Again whathe has actually receives exactly are the penceand one shilling probably mostcommon each individual for individual of amounts. Contributions -d.,ld., 3d.,6d., Is., 2s., contributed.It is also common a single in esusu 5s., lOs., and even ?5 were cited by informants to belongat the same timeto severaldifferent and contributions whichmay have different 1937, but other sums may be agreed upon. The groups,6 of contributions usuallymade monthly, are fortnightly varying intervals payment. A poor man cannot to to (every" fifteenth" according Yoruba reckon- afford join esusugroupswithlarge contributions, day " withthosewith man does notbother ing5), every eightdays (every ninth" day), or every whilea wealthy " fourdays (every" fifth day). However,any con- smallcontributions. venientintervalmay be selected,and the market The largeresusu groupsare dividedinto four or or womenof Ife have specialesusugroupsof theirown, more subgroups " roads " (pna), whichare numof withcontributions a halfpenny one penny or daily. bered (first, second, third,fourth)accordingto the the whichis rotated The lengthof the cycledependsboth on the length orderin whichtheyreceive fund, in of the intervalsbetweencontributions and on the amongthe subgroups turn. If, in our simplified number of members. Several esusu in Ife with example,we assume that thereare four subgroups, of intervals eightdays were said to have cyclesof each with five members,the order in which the fundof one pound is received the twenty by four or fiveyears,whichwould give a membership monthly as of about 200. The value of the esusufundcollected members be represented follows: can at the end of each interval dependsupon the size of First Second Third Fourth the contributions and on the numberof members. 4 2 1 3 The value of the fundis generally at a round set 7 6 8 5 such as Is., 5s., lOs., ?1, ?5 or ?10, so that number, 12 11 9 10 " the numberof " memberships is indirectly related 16 14 15 13 If to thesize of thecontributions. eighteen members 20 19 17 18 have agreedto join an esusugroupwithcontributions This representation idealized,as alreadyindicated, is will ofone shilling volunteer each,twoofthem usually in that a singleindividual may hold more than one each in orderto bringthe value to pay two shillings three shillings membership (e.g.,2, 6 and 10 bypaying of thefundup to an evenpound. and (e.g. 6) may monthly), thata singlemembership The numberof memberships need not, therefore, who contribute one be sharedby severalindividuals be the same as the numberof members. A single idealized in that the shillingjointly. It is further " individual may hold morethan one " membership in a givenesusugroupbyregularly morethan making 6 and the one contribution receiving fundmore than limited Thisis also truein Trinidad: " Nor is a member he to joining' one susu, forif his earnings but permit, may a once duringa single cycle. Conversely, single " each however, Members " membership" may be shared by two or more belongto several." In Trinidad, no mention made of is the contribute same amount" and
5 In counting timethe Yoruba include both the initial and finalday. Thus Sunday comes every" eighth" day (Sunday, Monday, Tuesday, Wednesday,Thursday,Friday, Saturday, Sunday). The traditionalYoruba " week " consists of four days, so that the eight day intervalis the equivalent of two Yoruba weeks.

a or beingheld memberships sharing membership of several is feature described by by the same individual.This latter the sumregularly. Aji?afe: " (d) A manmaypay twice fixed for as In thatcase he willbe considered paying twomenand not to he shall be entitled two men'sportions. It matters or whattimehe takesthe first portion, whattimehe takes the second. Should a man pay for the amountequivalent or he amount more, shallbe entitled times fixed the to three or as to takeEsusu three moretimes thecase maybe."

of Institution theYoruba The Esusu: A Credit


of of order,and pay out the fundto the members their fundmay be split among two or more members the orderin whichthefund subgroups. The head of the esusu may delegate that the same subgroup, to authority theheads of his subgroups, may be variedfromone cycleto another considerable is received in to make allowance for the holdingthem responsibleonly for bringing the within the subgroup of its members, and thatthe sub- correct at theend of each interval, needs amountof money momentary have an equal numberof and leavingit to themto make the collections. In groupsdo not necessarily and thusdo not receivethe fundthe same some cases the head of the esusudoes not knowthe members a of of sincehe deals only withthe number timesduring cycle. identity themembers, Anyonewho wishesto do so may foundan esusu heads of his subgroups. At least one man in Ife, his group, providedthat othersare willingto entrust however, refused organize esusuintosubgroups, to announceshis pro- insisting knowing theirmoneyto him. He simply on each of his members personally and those who wish to join and makinghis collections them. to his friends, from posal directly their A member inform indicatetheirintention. They,in turn, who has an immediate need formoney of the proposedesusu,and those who to covera specific or debtmayapplyto the acquaintalnces purchase for express their desire to join. The head of his subgroup the esusufund. Unless the are interested to founder becomes the head of the esusu (olori, olori head of his subgroup feelsthathe is likely default of the esusu, olori esu),7 and is responsible for the fund and or thathe is misrepresenting urgency his need, its paymentto the membersor the subgroupsin thefundis paid to himthenexttimethatit becomes who have applied the turnof his subgroup. According informants, rotation. Friendsof the founder to, become " heads of the theorderofrotation thefund to of amongthesubgroups directly him foradmission needs, but roads " (olori pna),8 and may be made responsible for would not be alteredto meet individual the and the collecting contributions making disburse- otherwise applicationsof this kind are treatedwith whichconsistof the consideration theheads of the subgroups. When mentswithintheirsubgroups, by who have applied to themratherthan to the fundis assignedon the basis of need rather than members for the founder admission. Because of the manner rotation, is referred as " a hand of the esusu" it to the apply forthe in whichtheyare formed, subgroupsmay vary (pwpesusukan).9 If severalmembers for to in size. It is possible,according informants, a samefund, head ofthesubgroup the authority has the the of to or subgroup consist onlyone individual, " head to assignit to thefirst applicant, to splitit among to two or more members. An individual applies directly of the road," wherean individual who applies the founder for admission but brings no other for the fund at a specifictime generally must be into the esusu group The first round is preparedto accept one of thesetwo alternatives, or members sinceit to have his request refused. Only an unusually not usuallypaid out at thetimeit is collected to to is customary wait untilthe second interval see considerate head of a subgroupwould agree to let and if any otherpeople apply formembership, then a memberhave a specific amountthat he needs at pay out two fundsat thesame time. Those who ask the moment,ratherthan assigninghim the whole be because it is fund,half the fund,or a thirdor fourth to join an esusugroupmay, refused part of it. in If the esusufundis splitin thisway between felt that theywill not keep up theirpayments, two or each of themwillsplitthefundagain orderto keep the value of the fundat a convenient moremembers, round number,or to keep fromhaving so many beforethe end of the cycle so that theyreceivethe to that it would be difficult keep trackof fullamountthattheyhave paid in. The splitting members of severalmembers thisway their in the esusufundsbetween payments. to A member pays his contributions the head of is also encouraged someheads of thesubgroups in by and may have no directdealingswith orderto decreasethechancesof their his subgroup, after defaulting the esusu head. The heads of the subgroupsturn theyhave received fund. the to who receives fundmustcontribute the overtheircollections the head of the esusu,see to The member it that theirsubgroupsreceivethe fund in proper to it and to all subsequentfundsuntilthe cycleis afterwhichhe is freeto withdraw from completed, the group if he wishes. When a memberdefaults 7 Known as " Captain" in Trinidad. duringa cyclein whichhe has receivedall or part 8
Trinidad,wherethe organizationof the susu group is " of the

are for and Subgroups heads of subgroups not recorded



9 In Trinidad everyfundis called a " hand."




" of the fund,the head of his subgroupasks him to begins with five " memberships findsit necessary repay whateverexcess he has been paid Qver the to reducehis contributions an amountequivalent to three membersare conamountthathe has contributed.If a defaulter fails to two " memberships," to pay he can be sued in court for what he 'owes, sideredto have " died on the road." He receives and the case is treated undercustomary like one the fund twice duringthat cycle and collects the law involving debts.10 As in the case of bad debts, balance due him after cyclehas been completed. the it to the defaulton their however, may be impossible recover money When a large numberof members even when a favourabledecision has been won in payments, from even if the surplusesare recovered court,whilein additionthe cost of the summons fee those who have receivedthe fund, the " esusu is the asks the head of esusu maybe lost. As a result esusuhead makesevery scattered," f. Each member of effort settle matter of court. Some esusu his subgroup a refund themoney has contrito the out he for heads insiston keepingthe first are round of contribu- buted. These requests relayed thehead of the to of tions at the begin-ning each cycle as a reserve to esusu,who repaysthemout of whathe collectsfrom cover deficits incurred members by defaulting. In those who receivedthe fund duringthe incomplete othercases thedeficit maybe metfrom subsequent finalcycle. The groupmay also be disbandedat the a if round of contributions which is collectedfor this end of a cycle,without financial complications, an wishto continue. purposewithout paying thefundon thatoccasion. insufficient out numberof members When a member defaults duringa cyclein which Memberscommonly keep trackof theircontribuhe has not receivedthe fundor wherehe has paid tionsby marking lineforeach payment thewall a on in morethanhe has takenout,he does not lose what of theirrooms,and each membermakes a definite he has contributed.He applies to the esusu head effort pay hiscontributions promptly.If a member to on the head of his subgroupfor the balance does not bringhis contribution the date thatit is through that is due him, and at the end of the cycle he is expected, head of his subgroupsendsto him for the is a paid fromthe amount that is left over. When a it. If the head of his subgroup lenient, member is someone does not lose his membership the esusugroup or in meliiber defaults, attempt made to find an else to take his place, or one of the membersto forfeit money has alreadypaid in if his contrihe the who are slow in so assume an additionalcontribution that the value butionis late. However,members will are ofthefund not have to be decreased.11 In some payingtheircontributions considered bad risks. have received deiaultafter cases thehead oftheesusuholdsthesubheadsrespon- It is felt thatthey they may of sible for the contributions any defaulters of within the esusufundso that,regardless theirirmnediate to the their own subgroups. In both cases, the excess needs,theyare not-permitted receive funduntil to for are to contributions returned those who have paid the end of the cycle. The penalty failure pay whentheesusufund divided. An individual's contributions is of is forfeiture the chance to them promptly it credits and debitsin an esusugroupare inherited receive fundwh-en is mostneeded. as the of esusu groupswere differentiated a partof his estate.'2 by Two types is it those whose membership open to When a member defaults, is said that " he dies informants:, on the road," o ku s(i)-pna. If an individualwho anyone,althoughit may be drawnlargelyfromthe the group of relativesinhabiting compound of the is and those whose membership restricted founder; " (b) Should one of the members 10AjPAafe 13 of to the inhabitants one compound. states: who has primarily takentheEsusu failto continueto pay theregularsubscription, The restricted esusu groups are associated with the such a membermust be held responsiblefor his or her subof ipade obinrin memberswho have not taken their meetings thewivesof thecompound, to scription the remaining of of ile,14 and the meetings the daughters the comown Esusu. Paymentsshall be enforcedas in the case of debt." ile, pound,ipade pmp-(o)binrin withthecontributions 11Aji?afestates: " (c) But if a memberwho has not taken and the disbursement the fundoccurring their at of fails to continue,anotherperson may take up his place, and case, the iyale acts regularmeetings. In the former man whenthatone takes the Esusu, he shall refund the first to
(his predecessor) the amount subscribed by him (the first man)." details on the compound and on the town 13 For further (f) Should a member of the Esusu 12Aji?afe states: or societydie whiletheEsusu is not closed, his children nearest wards and precinctsmentionedbelow, see W. R. Bascom, of kinreceivetheamountsubscribed him or pay theamount 1944,pp. 9-20. by 14 Ipade is epade in Ife. standingagainsthim."

Institution theYoruba The Esusu: A Credit of


when these contributions the s-tipulated group, for example, made up of Public Works Department 15 The divination is technique employed thatof proposing employeeswould not take in a man or woman whose employof alternatives specific (ibo). The namesof the members a mentwas casual. An astutemove for such a susu is to make in and the the ' driver' its captain, since,when personnelare to be laid are mentioned a haphazardmanner, precinct the whether answeris " Yes " or off, will see to it thatmembersof the group are not among he must determine diviner " No " until person designated an affirmative. is one them." by E 2 (6736)

compound. Sincethegroup as thehead of the esusuand, if none of themembers one girlfrom different a of of have made special applicationfor the fund, it is was made up almostexclusively daughters the the who wererelatedto each other, customarily given to the woman responsiblefor same compound, up. of providing foodforthatparticular meeting. Although membership the four subgroupswas evened the men of the compound hold similarmeetings, Each of the foursubheadswas put in chargeof ten so ile, the ipade pmp-(p)kunrin theyprohibit formation memberswith whom she had influence, that it contributions. their of esusuwithin groupsbecauseit is feltthatthe would be easierforherto collecttheir ten for harmony the compound,whichis considered of far Each was made responsible collecting shillings for defaulters, which of more important than an esusu, mightbe disturbed and forthecontribiitions any " scattered." at the end of each cycle. if theesu'su wereto be theywereto be reimbursed who wereset aside fortheofficers, Unrestricted esusu,whose membership open to None of thefunds is thisesusu 1937, pay. In September, all, are very common. According to informantsservedwithout six thereis one in everycompound in Ife ; in other had completed cycles,each lastingabout twenty for were words,in each compoundsomeonehas foundedan months, itsofficers waiting thebeginning and fromall parts of of the cocoa season when people would have mnore esusuwhichis open to individuals a the city. The largerof the unrestricted esusu may moneybeforestarting new cycle. was there informant of fromeach of the fivewards of Ife, In thecompound a different includemembers of a contribution threeesusu with and the subgroups to may correspond the precincts, an unrestricted 6f i.e., the politicalsubdivisions the wards. When pence for which the fund disbursed amountedto of a giving membership 120. Another shillings, is theamount theesusufund very of for large, example, thirty centredin the compoundof his esusu, twenty pounds or more, a diviner(babalawo) may unrestricted and a fund of be' called in to selectthe sub-headforeach precinct, wife,had a contribution one shilling of again givinga membership 120. of one so as to be certain finding whowillnotabscond of six pounds, belongedto a third himself This second informant withthefunds.15 of The case of a restricted esusu of the daughters of esusu group with a contribution ten shillings givinga of a compoundmay be examined some detail. This monthlyand a membership fourteen,in group was foundedabout 1927 by Humuani,who total fund of seven pounds. This latteris a new esusu, limitedto salaried men, servedas informant.At one of theregular meetings type of unrestricted who has himself, of withtheexception theinformant she of of the daughters the compound, suggested the for of an esusu " for the good of the com- a reputation being able to earn moneybut who formation pound" and " in order to help the compound." mustwait untilthe veryend of each cycleto receive income."6 becausehe does not have a regular Before it was actually established,some of the thefund when he was employedby the Nigerian theircontribu- Formerly, of the compoundbrought daughters of tions to Humuani, and to Alice, Comfort and Police, he belongedto an esusu group consisting had a contribution which of These girlswere appointedheads of the twenty-fourhiscolleagues Virginia. or whenthe esusuwas established a of fivepounds monthly a fund of ?120. This at foursubgroups its prohibited of the daughtersof the com- esusu continueduntilthe government subsequentmeeting becamethehead of employeesfrom joining eSusu in order to protect Humuaniautomatically pound. it. them fromgoing into debt when the esusu " scatthe esusuas well,because she had first suggested was set at one shilling tered" or the esusuhead abscondedwiththefunds. The standardcontribution were taken,giving Abscondingwith esusu fundsis commonenough and forty monthly memberships did a total fundof two pounds. Humuani herself not know how many individuals were actually 16 It seems reasonable to assume thatthistypedid not exist or represented the forty by memberships, how many before wages and salaries were paid by Europeans. In of the memberswere actuallyfromher own com- Trinidad wages are an importantsource of income: " The able to make pound, exceptthat in her own subgrouptherewas point of importanceis to have a membership are due. A susu



theirmoney round for himselfduringthe cycle withoutbeing to make the Yoruba waryof entrusting The reputationof the esusu head caught. to strangers.17 of If an esusugrouphas a largenumber uneducated is as important consideration joining an esusu a in small amounts, it is most group as the amount of the contributions the memberscontributing and for to intervals whichthese become due. In orderto difficult them prevent esusuheadfrom at the taking feel thathis moneyis safe, an individual joins an one or two roundsforhimself. Even if one of the noticedthat his tallyshowed that he had esusu group headed by a person who has an members his whilehe had received times for fifty established and a man who contributed penny reputation honesty, is knownto be dishonest would find almostimpos- onlyfourshillings pence)whenhe took thefund, it (48 not thatthediscrepancy not was sibleto foundan esusugroup. Sincemostindividuals he might be certain the heads of the subgroupsand may due to his miscalculation. However,if stillanother join through were have no directcontactwiththe esusu head himself, contribution calledfor,he wouldcomparenotes and refuseto pay. Since it is ask theyfirst who the head of the esusuis. This is withothermembers a also considered wise precaution the solicitor almost impossibleto prove the exact number of if is of whichhave actually been made, such a suspected collecting moneyunderfalsepretences. contributions The heads of restricted esusu groups generally case would not be takento court. However,when make no profit. They have only the privilegeof the cycle was completed,all those who suspected as beingrecognized the head of the, group,and the the head of the esusu of cheatingwould drop out. member protected is satisfactionof assertingtheir authorityover its The individual againstunscrumembers granting denyingtheirrequest for pulous and dishonest or esusuheads mainly theright by by fromthe group,and by the factthat funds. In some unrestricted esusu groups, the of withdrawal contribute additionalround at the head knowsthathe will lose his members he an if members willingly the end of each cycle which is divided among the is too greedy. head and subheads.18 There are, moreover, indivi- Anotherof the sharp practicesof a professional " duals who " make a business out of beingthehead esusu head is to keep the first round for himself, of unrestricted esusu groups,althoughthe practices saying that it is a reserveagainst defaulters but to employed theseprofessionals said not to occur failing accountforits expenditure.Another to by are is in esusugroupsrestricted the members a com- insistthat a member forfeits equityin the fund his to of pound or to salaried employees. Althoughthese if he does not make his payments promptly a by practicesare regardedas unscrupulous, theyare so certainhour of the appointedday. Traditionally difficult prevent to thattheyare more or less taken the head of the esusukepttrackof the contributions of forgranted. It is commonly thatwhenone and of the disbursements the fundsby a seriesof expected joins an unrestricted esusu, two of the fundseach markson the wall of his'room. To-day a literate of cyclewillbe keptbytheesusuhead ; butit is thought member the groupmay serveas its clerk(akpwe) to be unlikely thatthe esusuhead could take a third and keep its accounts,but even thisdoes not suffice to prevent members fromoverpaying. Professional esusu heads commonly guard against defaulters by 17 In Trinidad: "The most important member is the establishing reservefund or by holdingthe suba captain, or treasurer, who must be a person of responsibility. heads responsible forthe contributions defaulters of This does not always occur, and it was the abuse of the susu their within subgroups. The heads of thesubgroups, mechanismby unscrupulousbut plausible organizersthat led to the recognition the institution law and the consequent in turn,may insist on splitting of in each fund among protection of its members against such exploitation. This several membersto decrease the chances of their danger is fullyrecognized in Toco, where it is held that a treasurer who draws the first ' hand ' is a person to be defaulting. The professional esusu head may sit in his house watched." 18 twoprovisions whichwerenot mentioned and wait for the heads of the subgroupsto bring Ajiqafedescribes by Ife informants: " (c) Sometimes Esusu is not taken thecontributions him,or he mayhave themembers to rotationally. The regular subscriptions are taken and kept contributions to bringtheir directly him. In neither by the president. At the end of threemonthsor any other of time decided by the members,the total amount is brought case are theremeetings the members, although forthand everymemberreceiveshis total subscription. The with esusu groupsheaded by non-professionals, the president, who is also the treasurer, entitledto the amount is members at may sit down together regular meetings. equivalent to 21 per cent. from the amount subscribed by is Such a meeting knownas a]p esusuor a]p esu,and everymember."

The Esusu: A Credit Institution theYoruba of


thehouse in which is held is referred as ile esusu chargedby money-lenders, esusu has played an it the to or ile esu. The contributions paid at these important in theYoruba economy, whichshows role are of conditions underthepresent meetingsand there may be speeches urging the no signsof declining members bringin theircontributions to Europeaninfluence. promptly so increasing that the group will not break up. Afterwards the to A finalpointremains be considered, possithe members eat together may before adjourning, although bility that the esusu itselfmay be the result of this is not a universalpractice. If the meetings Europeaninfluence. Aside fromthe factthatit has includea meal, the members African providefood and drink rarelybeen reportedamong neighbouring in turn,and the meetings held in the house of peoples thereis littleto supportthispoint of view. are thehost. is Even thisfact,actually, no evidenceof European The esusu is a creditinstitution. All members origin, peopleshave also WestAfrican sincetheother exceptthe ones who receiveor share the verylast been effected acculturation greateror lesser to by fund of a given cycle receivean advance on their degrees. Furthermore, is there no Europeaninstitucontributions, although amountadvanceddeclines tion, particularly the among those recordedamong the as thecycleprogresses. An attempt made,further-Europeans on the West Coast of Africa,which is is more,to make the fundavailableto members the strictly of comparable or which suggestsitself as a group at timeswhen theyhave need for it. When modelfrom whichtheesusumight have been derived. an individual requiresoutsidefinancial say that the esusu is an he The Yoruba themselves assistance, may apply for the esusu fund ratherthan borrow ancientinstitution, that beforeBritishpounds, and money from a relativeor friendwithoutinterest, shillings pencewereintroduced was carriedon and it paying in cominterest money cocoa to a regular or money- in Ife in cowries,but never in consumption lender, "pawning" his cocoa treesor, before was modities. It has been discouraged,if anything, it prohibited by law, "pawning" himself or his rather but by than encouraged, the government, it is instituchildren. Because of the large amountsof money stilla verywidespread and firmly established required irregular often at and time. Finally,the factthatit has unpredictable intervals, tion at thepresent because of the limitedopportunities investmentbeen recorded Trinidadestablishes thatit was part in for and saving, and becauseof theexcessive theperiodoftheslavetrade. interest rates ofYoruba culture during



.. .

.. ..

.. .. .. ..
.. ..

1924 1944 1937 1947 19211942


References The Laws and Customsof the YorubaPeople. London. The SociologicalRole of the Yoruba Cult Group. Amer. Anthrop. Ass., Memoir 63. of Dictionary the YorubaLanguage, 1913 ed. C.M.S. Bookshop, Lagos. TrinidadVillage. New York. A Black Byzantium. London.
The History of the Yorubas. London.