Pardner. Sol. Ayuuto. Asue. Njangi. Kas money. Box. Tontine. Rounds.1
These labels describe what the Black British diaspora collectively recognises as a money saving system, sweeping across the four nautical points of Africa and the Caribbean.
For the sake of this post, it will be referred to as a pardner. Whilst there are slight nuances in the pardner system across different cultures, the premise of it as a saving method remains the same. Essentially, a group of people come together (they tend to be friends or related and the reason for these close connections will be revealed later) and decide to pool a specific amount of money from each participant, each giving a hand. This money will then be given to each participant at different points across the year, this is called a draw.
The best way to conceptualise this is to think of the pool of money as a saving pot in which the person whose turn it is to draw receives all the money in the pot when it is their turn. For example, if my sister, my two cousins and I set up a pardner. We set the amount each person has to contribute at £300 and the frequency is once a month. The draw would be at the end of each month. If my draw was at the end of August, I would have £1200; £300 from my own contribution and a combined £900 from my sister and two cousins.
In theory, a pardner appears faultless, a saving method between trusted family and friends; what could possibly go wrong?
In practice, this positive experience has been the case for many. A friend of mine’s father, Uncle Viere, had nothing but glowing reports about the pardner amongst him and his Tuesday Club.2 He said he would do a pardner again and continues to do so because it makes him feel more “accountable” to his savings. Other members of the Tuesday Club are relying on him to set aside his savings to deliver his hand in the pardner. Not only did this system consolidate the saving skills of its members, the money pooled from it has produced unforgettable memories. The most recent example of this was using 60% of the pardner to invest in their holiday to Gambia, allowing the trip to be paid for in a more “manageable way along with spending money”.
I was inspired to write about this topic by the outlook of my own parents. My mum had the same answer to Uncle Viere, that she continues to participate in pardners. She said it has taught her the importance of “community networking”, a referral by another Jamaican into a pardner produces “lifetime relationships with people who you sometimes never meet”. On the practical side, pardners have provided much needed monetary support at pivotal moments in her life. This ranged from contributing to the deposit on our childhood home to ordinary expenses such as back to school shopping for my sister and I. Unlike Uncle Viere, my mum has not always had overwhelmingly positive experiences. She lamented the most important takeaway from such a system is how existing friendships can be “maimed” by such an experience. Sadly, there have been some occasions in which people she thought of as friends have taken “liberties” and violated “the unwritten terms of the pardner”.
For children of the Black British diaspora, pardners are not a new thing. But what is the importance of talking about them now?
The economic climate is incredibly unstable. For young people, it can be very challenging trying to enter adolescence or adulthood in an economic and political world that is on the verge of crumbling. This post is simply a reminder of the hustles our parents, grandparents, friends, aunts and uncles, the foundational generations of our communities, did to get by. Whether they were new to this island before or after your birth or were raised as the diaspora’s children, pardners have been a way of life, of soothing economic worries with the backdrop of community, love and accountability. Perhaps there is something we can learn from this.
1 This insight was taken from the comment section of the In My Opinion podcast which can be found on Instagram @inmyopinonpodcastuk and @inmyopinionpod on Tik Tok. Under their Tik Tok video titled ‘She used a Pardner (Savings Scheme) to Save £15K in a Year for a Deposit’.
2 Uncle Viere is from Saint Vincent and the Grenadines. His Tuesday Club consists of five members including himself.