Chamas as described by Wikipedia are informal cooperative societies that are formed to pool funds from members for individual or group development. They can be structured for short term or long term goals depending on agreed operation guidelines.
Some chamas would require members to contribute uniformly and periodically for a defined period of time to either raise capital for long term investments or internal lending. Others would just engage themselves in merry-go-round activities which basically entail contributing funds and giving them to one member and the same loop is repeated for every member after an agreed period.
One common feature with all Chamas however small they are, is record keeping of all activities and transactions. The records may fall into two broad categories, financial and non-financial. They range from minutes taking, setting rules and regulations, recording of contributions, loans, fines, income, expenses and many more. The record keeping role look simple for small groups which are established for a short period of time usually for few days however for groups with many members and which want to attain long term objectives record keeping can be complex and challenging.
For many groups which rely on putting records on paper and maintaining files or books, they have been faced with challenges like loss of data, errors in recording, manual addition of figures, and the hard task of dealing with pen and paper in this world of technology. So thanks to a few book keeping software’s that can handle financial records like Excel and quick books, they may assist the treasurer organize financial data, maintain members records and even generate reports.
However in an effort to maintain an accurate, transparent and fully automated record one may prefer using one software to the other. So this story intends to walk you through a few of the chama apps that I have interacted with in Play Store.
I belong to several chamas but the one that I wanted to automate is an investment kind. One that has member contributions, incurs expenses, give loans to members for an interest, intends to acquire assets e.t.c. For android devices Play Store is an easier option to help one shop around. So I landed on two apps that I intend to highlight their strengths in matching what I was looking for.
CHAMA, App by Imarisha Technologies
Chama is an app found in Play Store that was developed by Imarisha Technologies and was released in July, 2017. It’s a Kenyan app developed by brilliant developers that seek to provide book keeping solutions for Chamas. The app intends to promote transparency in chamas by hosting their records and providing real time updates of all transactions. A member of a group downloads the app, signs up for a group account and registers members who are sent invitation texts. When all members download the app and sign in, they are able to see all transactions that have been recorded by the group admin, and the group balances. It also shows each members contributions.
It has a couple of transaction types or menus that help the admin to record entries. These menus are displayed on the dashboard.
1. Contributions made: – under this menu the admin is allowed to capture a members contribution datewise. And increases the totals for each member accordingly.
2. Assets: – this menu records the amount of cash incurred in purchasing or selling group assets.
3. Merry-go-round: – all the cash paid out to members can be recorded here. For groups that do internal lending, group loans to members can be recorded here.
4. Expenses: – expenditures by the group are captured under this menu
5. Revenue: – the groups income is recorded here.
The app is able to generate a statement that displays all entries that have been captured in pdf format and be emailed.
CHAMASOFT, App by Chamasoft Ltd
Chamasoft is an app that was developed by Chamasoft Ltd a baby software company for Digital Vision E.A. Ltd which was released in Aug, 2017. Like Chama, Chamasoft intends to provide solutions for chamas through hosting of their records and promoting transparency. The app was also developed by Kenyans.
Members who download the app are able to track chamas transaction as they are recorded.
It’s major approach in maintaining groups record is broken down as outlined below: –
1. Financial management: – records the groups cash receipts and withdrawals
2. Membership management: –provides fields to add members personal information and includes a section for their next of kin.
3. Expense management: – all groups expenses are recorded here according to their category.
4. Accounts management: – chamas could be having several bank accounts and they could also be entrusting the treasurer with the cash, cash at hand. Chama is able to manage bank records and cash at hand as well.
5. Loan management: – all loans to group members are recorded here. The group can also borrow loans from individuals or banks. Those are well catered for under the menus for loans.
6. Project management: – chamas with long term projects would have goals which may include purchase of land, building houses, investing in money markets etc. All that can be recorded here.
7. Reports: – every entry made in this app under any menu will have a mini report, then all those incomes and expenditures are consolidated into complex financial reports like income statement, trial balance, balance sheet etc. The reports are generated in pdf or excel format.
Comparison of Chamasoft and Chama
Both are apps developed by Kenyan smart brilliant minds who understand chama operations. They were released almost the same time. Currently they are only found in Play Store and not in iOS.
Installation and set up: – Chama app downloads in members phones and they are able to set-up their accounts without hiccups. Chamasoft installs well on phones but is device specific. The app in some devices is unable to operate with data and requires WiFi connection for it to function. They have a web version however which can be used in place of the app.
Data entry: – entries captured in Chamasoft can be edited while those captured in Chama cannot.
Contributions: – both apps capture members contributions and display totals for each member on the dashboard. However, Chamasoft is able to generate a statement showing each members contribution in pdf. This enables members with several transactions to verify their contributions more easily.
Loans: – both apps seem to have a good understanding of internal group lending. In Chama app loans can be captured under merry-go-round while Chamasoft has a dedicated menu for loans where one can input the interest charged and add dates for members to be invoiced and reminded of their due dates.
Reports: – technically Chama app currently displays about two reports. The total contributions made per member and a statement capturing all transactions made. Chamasoft on the other hand displays mini reports in almost all the categories however comprehensive reports like members contributions, loans, expenses, income statement, transaction statements, balance sheet, trial balance e.t.c. can be generated under reports.
Details:- Chamasoft is more detailed and captures several aspects of an operational Chama. It is flexible and enables users to customize sub menus to suit dynamic needs of chamas. Chama app is basic and simple to use, it has few details which captures functions of a simple chama.
Accuracy and presentation of data: – both apps have issues of presentation of data. In chamasoft transaction statement, details for a member can be mismatched with another member. In Chama app the statement running balance is not sequential and incremental.
Customer support: – Chama app responds to users customer queries after a number of days while chamasoft has a dedicated customer support system that handles users queries during the day. Chamasoft can be reached on phone, twitter, email and facebook while Chama app is mainly reached through email.
Trial period: – Chama app has a 3 month trial period while Chamasoft trial period is less than a month.
Pricing: – Chama app is currently still free for users while chamasoft charges approximately ksh.30 per month for every member enrolled.
Rating of performance using a 1-10 scale
Finally, I would like to put a personal rating based on my interaction with the two chama apps. Where 1-is poor and 10- is excellent.
1. Installation & setup __8 _________________6
2. Data entry ___________5 _________________9
3. Contributions ________8 _________________9
4. Loans. _______________4 _________________8
5. Reports. _____________5 _________________8
6. Details ______________6 _________________9
7. Accuracy & … _______5 _________________6
8. Customer support ___5 _________________8
9. Trial period _________8 ________________6
Average _______________6 _________________7.7
This is only March 2018, you can imagine what Kenyan developers will bring us in the coming months. Looking forward for more local solutions to our automation dreams.