Fringe Banking in Canada: The Collective Economies of Toronto’s “Banker Ladies”


  • Caroline Shenaz Hossein York University



Money pools, Racialized Canadians, Social economy, Money, Collectives, Cooperatives, Gender, Toronto / Pools d’argent, Canadiens racialisés, Économie sociale, Argent, Collectifs, Coopératives, Genre, Toronto


Rotating savings and credit associations (ROSCAs) are regarded as a time-honoured tradition practiced by many people around the world. African Canadians value ROSCAs because of how they have helped people adjust to Canadian life. This study examines ROSCAs and the role that African Canadians have played in Canada’s social economy. It includes interviews with 77 people, 46 of whom are “Banker Ladies”—African Canadian women who create community-driven financial cooperatives in Canada’s largest financial centre, Toronto. ROSCAs have been incubating within the Canadian diaspora for the past 70 years as a way to counteract the business exclusion. For the social economy in Canada to be reflective of society, the research and theories that drive the sector must reflect a cultural awareness of the various cooperative forms led by racialized Canadians.

Plusieurs personnes dans le monde suivent la tradition vénérable des associations rotatives d’épargne et de crédit (AREC). Les Afro-Canadiens valorisent les AREC pour la manière dont celles-ci ont aidé les gens à s’adapter à la vie canadienne. Cette étude examine les AREC et le rôle joué par les Afro-Canadiens dans l’économie sociale du pays. Elle inclut des entretiens avec 77 personnes, y compris 46 femmes banquières—des Afro-Canadiennes créant des coopératives financières communautaires dans le plus grand centre financier du Canada, Toronto. Depuis 70 ans, les AREC persistent au sein de la diaspora canadienne afin de contrer les défaillances du système bancaire classique. Pour que l’économie sociale au Canada puisse refléter la société telle qu’elle est, la recherche et la théorie relatives au secteur doivent tenir compte des divers formats de coopératives menées par des Canadiens et Canadiennes racialisés.


Download data is not yet available.

Author Biography

Caroline Shenaz Hossein, York University

Caroline Shenaz Hossein is an Assistant professor of Business and Society in the Department of Social Science at York University.


Alexander, A. (1997). The Antigonish movement: Moses Coady and adult education today. Toronto, ON: Thompson Educational.

Alamenciak, T. (2014). Banking while Black. Toronto Star, December 10

Amin, Ash. (2009). The social economy: International perspectives on economic solidarity. London, UK: Zed Books.

Ardener, S., and S. Burman (eds.). (1996). Money-go-rounds: The importance of rotating savings and credit associations for women. Oxford, UK: Berg.

Baradaran, M. (2015). How the other half banks: exclusion, exploitation, and the threat to democracy. Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press.

Bouman, FJA. (1977). Indigenous savings and credit societies in the developing world. Savings and Development, 1(4), 181–218.

———. (1995). “Rotating and accumulating savings and credit associations: A development perspective.” World Development, 23(3), 371–384.

Brennan, R.J. (2015). “Ontario to invest $4M in businesses with social conscience.” Toronto Star, February 19.

Bridge, S., B. Murtagh, and K. O’Neil. (2009). Understanding the social economy and the third sector. London, UK: Palgrave Macmillian.

Buckland, J. (2012). Hard choices: Financial exclusion, fringe banks, and poverty in urban Canada. Toronto, ON: University of Toronto Press.

Chiteji, N. (2002). Promises Kept: Enforcement and the role of rotating savings and credit associations in an economy. Journal of International Development, 14, 393–411.

Collins, D., J. Morduch, S. Rutherford, and O. Ruthven. (2009). Portfolios of the poor: How the world’s poor live on $2 a day. Princeton, NJ: Princeton UP.

Das Gupta, T. (2007). Immigrant women's activism: The last thirty years. In G. Fuji Johnson and R. Enomoto (Eds), Race, Racialization, and Antiracism in Canada and Beyond (pp. 105-116). Toronto, ON: University of Toronto Press.

Datta, R. 2000. On their own: Development strategies of the self-employment women’s association (SEWA) in India. Development, 43(4), 51–55.

Du Bois, W.E.B. (2007/1903). The souls of black folk. US: Filiquarian Publishing.

________. 1907. Economic co-operation among negro Americans. Atlanta University Press.

Fairbairn, B. (1994). The meaning of rochdale: The rochdale pioneers and the co-operative principles. University of Saskatchewan.

Figart, D. M. (2014). Underbanked and overcharged: Creating alternatives to alternative financial service providers. Dollars & Sense, 9–11.

Fontan, J.M., P. Hamel, R. Morin, and E. Shragge (2009). Community organizations and local governance in a metropolitan region. Urban Affairs Review, 44(6), 832-857.

Foster, M., I. Berger, K. Ross, and K. Neglia. (2015). Miziwe Biik case study: Microloans in the Urban aboriginal community. In J.

Quarter, S. Ryan, and A. Chan (Eds.), Social Purpose Enterprises: Case Studies for Social Change. Toronto, ON: University of Toronto Press, 75-97.

Galabuzi, G.-E. (2006). Canada’s economic apartheid: The social exclusion of racialized groups in the new century. Toronto, ON: Canadian Scholars Press Inc.

Geertz, C. (1962). The Rotating Credit Association: A Middle Rung in Development. Economic Development and Cultural Change, 10(3), 241–263.

Gibson-Graham, J.K. (2006). A postcapitalist politics. Minneapolis, MN: University of Minnesota Press.

Gilmore, S. (2015). Canada’s race problem? It’s even worse than America’s. For a country so self-satisfied with its image of progressive tolerance, how is this not a national crisis?

Maclean’s, January, January 23.

Gordon Nembhard, J. (2014). Collective courage: A history of African American cooperative economic thought and practice. Pennsylvania: Penn State University Press.

Guinnane, T. (2001). Cooperatives as information machines: German rural credit cooperatives, 1883–1914. Journal of Economic History, 61(2), 366–389.

Handa S., and K. Claremont. (1999). The economics of rotating savings and credit associations: evidence from the Jamaica partner. Journal of Development Economics, 60, 173–194.

Hart, K., J.-L. Laville, and A. D. Cattani. (2010). The human economy. Cambridge, UK: Policy Press.

Hill Collins, P. 2000a. Black feminist thought: Knowledge, consciousness, and the politics of empowerment. Second edition. New York: Routledge.

———. 2000b. Black feminism and Black political economy. Annals of the American Academy of Political and Social Science, 568, 41-53.

Hossein, C. S. (forthcoming). “Money pools in the Americas: The African diaspora’s legacy in the social economy.” Forum for Social Economics. ()

———. (2016a). Politicized microfinance: Money, power and violence in the Black Americas. Toronto, ON: University of Toronto Press.

———. (2016b). “A trusted ancient African tradition of savings.” Montreal Community Contact, July 25.

———. (2013). The Black social economy: Perseverance of banker ladies in the slums.” Annals of Public and Cooperative Economics, 84(4), 423-442.

Hudson, R., and R. Wehrell. (2005). Social responsible investors and the micro-entrepreneur: A Canadian case. Journal of Business Ethics, 60, 281-292.

James, C., D. Este, W. Thomas Bernard, A. Benjamin, B. Lloyd, and T. Turner. (2010). Race and well-being: The lives, hopes and activism of African Canadians. Halifax, NS: Fernwood Publishing.

Jones, R. (2014). “Is peer-to-peer lending too good to be true?” Guardian, 15 February.

Jones, K. (2010). “The Ethiopian immigrant business enclave the United States: Perceptions of residents, consumers, and entrepreneurs,” Journal of African Business, 11: 107-123.

K’adamwe, K., A. Bernard, and E. Dixon. (2011). “Marcus Garvey the entrepreneur? Insights for stimulating entrepreneurship in developing nations.” 76 King Street: Journal of Liberty Hall, 2(1), 37-59.

Knight, M. (2012). "For us by us (FUBU): The politicized space of Black women's entrepreneurship in Canada." Southern Journal of Canadian Studies, 5(1-2), 162-183.

_______. (2005). "The production of the female entrepreneurial subject: A space of exclusion for women of color?” Journal of Women, Politics and Policy, 27(3-4), 151-159.

Laforest, R. 2009. The new federal agenda and the voluntary sector. Kingston, ON: McGill-Queen’s University Press.

Madibbo, A. (2007). “Race, gender, language and power relations: Blacks within Francophone communities in Ontario, Canada”. Race, Gender and Class, 14(1-2), 213-226.

Madibbo, A. and J. Maury. (2012/Reprinted). “L’immigration et la communauté franco- torontoise: le cas des jeunes”.

Martin, T. (1983). Marcus Garvey, hero: A first biography. Dover, MA: The Majority.

Mendell, M. (2009a). The social economy of Quebec: lessons and challenges. In D. Reed and J. J. McMurtry (Eds.), Co-operatives in a Global Economy: The Challenges of Co-Operation Across Borders (pp. 226-242). Newcastle-upon-Tyne, UK: Cambridge Scholars Publishing.

_______. (2009b). “The three pillars of the social economy in Quebec.” In Ash Amin (Ed.), The Social Economy: Alternative Ways of Thinking about Capitalism and Welfare. London: Zed Books, 176-209.

Mensah, J. (2010). Black Canadians: History, experience, social conditions. Second edition. Halifax: Fernwood Publishing.

Mintz, S. (2010). Three ancient colonies: Caribbean themes and variations. Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press.

_______. (1955). The Jamaican internal marketing pattern: Some notes and hypotheses. Social and Economic Studies, 4(1), 95–103.

Mirchandani, K. (2002). A special kind of exclusion: Race, gender and Self-employment” Atlantis, 27, 25-38.

North, P. (2016). Money reform and the Eurozone Crisis: Panacea, utopia or grassroots alternative? Cambridge Journal of Economics, (on line release),1-15.

Pagliaro, J. 2014. “Toronto community grants not targeting the most challenged areas.” Toronto Star, December 12.

Polanyi, K. (1944). The great transformation: The political and economic origins of our time. Boston, MA: Beacon Press.

Quarter, J., L. Mook, and A. Armstrong. (2009). Understanding the social economy: A Canadian perspective. Toronto, ON: University of Toronto Press.

Quarter, J., S. Ryan, and A. Chan. (2015). Social purpose enterprises: Case studies for social change. Toronto, ON: University of Toronto Press.

Roelvink, G., K. St. Martin, and J.K. Gibson-Graham. (2015). Making other worlds possible: Performing diverse economies. Minnesota,: University of Minnesota Press.

Rutherford, S. (2000). The poor and their money. New Delhi: DFID/Oxford UP.

Sandbrook, R., and A. Burak Güven. (2014). Civilizing globalization, Revised and Expanded Edition: A Survival Guide. New York: SUNY Press.

Sethi, R. M. (1996). Women’s ROSCAs in contemporary Indian society. In S. Ardener and S. Burman (Eds.), Money-Go-Rounds: The Importance of Rotating Savings and Credit Associations for Women (pp. 163–179). Oxford, UK: Berg.

Shragge, E., and J.-M. Fontan. (2000). Social economy: International debates and perspectives. Montreal: Black Rose Books.

Smets, P. (2000). "Roscas as a source of housing finance for the urban poor: An analysis of self-help practices from Hyderabad, India." Community Development Journal, 35(1), 16-30.

Soman, D., V. Kumar, M. Metcalfe, and J. Wong. (2012). Beyond great ideas: A framework for going global with local innovations.” Rotman Magazine, 50-55.

Southcott, C. (2015). Northern communities working together: The social economy of Canada’s North. Toronto, ON: University of Toronto Press.

Spotton Visano, B. (2008). Pathways to financial inclusion? Fringe banking in Canada. Conference presentation, Canadian Economics Association, 7 June.

Statistics Canada. National Household Survey. National Housing Profile.(2011). URL: [November 1, 2015].

_______. (2007). The African community in Canada. URL: [August 24 , 2015].

_______. 2004. Black population: A portrait, March 16. URL: [November 1, 2015].

_______. 2001 Census. Statistics Canada. URL: [June 2, 2014].

St. Pierre, M. (1999). Anatomy of resistance: Anticolonialism in Guyana 1823–1966. London, UK: MacMillan Education.

Thériault, L. (2012). The Foundations of the social economy: Co-operatives, non-profits and other social enterprises. In S.

Novkovic and L. Brown (Eds.), Social Economy: Communities, Economies and Solidarity in Atlantic Canada (pp. 22-38). Cape Breton, NS: Cape Breton University Press.

U.N. (2011). International Year for People of African descent. URL: [November 17, 2015].

Washington, B. T. (2013/1901). Up from slavery: An autobiography. Delhi, India: Ratna Sagar P. Ltd.

Williams, R. C. (2007). The cooperative movement: Globalization from below. Hampshire, UK: Ashgate Publishing.

Wilson, K. (2001). Microfinance an essay on the self-help group movement in India. Journal of Microfinance, 4(2): 217-246.

Wuntunee, W. (2010). Living rhythms: Lessons in Aboriginal economic resilience and vision. Kingston, ON: McGill–Queens University Press.

Van Staveren, I. (2015). Economics after the crisis: An introduction to economics from a pluralist and global perspective. New York: Routledge.

Yunus, M. (2010). Building social businesses: The new kind of capitalism that serves humanity’s most pressing needs. New York: Perseus Book Group.