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Stokvels are worth an estimated R25 billion in South Africa, according to a survey by market research company African Response released on Thursday.
The survey, taken from 3750 interviews, found that 23 percent of the population belonged to some 421,000 stokvels.
A stokvel is a group savings scheme, usually run by trusted friends or co-workers. Members contribute a set amount each month and either one member gets the total each month to spend on a personal need, or it is invested and divided among members at an agreed time.
African Response managing director Mamapudi Nkgadima said burial societies were the most common type of stokvel.
"It is a fact that many spend fortunes preparing for death in their community or family, and limited resources towards saving or investment," she said.
"Funerals, or the prospect of a funeral, is an expensive issue in the average stokvel member's life."
The next biggest stokvels were for savings and groceries.
Around 31 people belonged to an average stokvel, although membership could be as high as 100 people in burial stokvels.
The average contribution for a burial stokvel was R134 per member per month, compared to other stokvel types at R190 a month.
"Less than half of what stokvels collect -- in their entirety -- gets saved or invested and this is an area that needs to be looked at," Nkgadima said.
"Stokvel members should be encouraged to explore value adding ways to strengthen their collective savings."
The results were taken from face-to-face interviews with a nationally representative sample between February and April.