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Group-based Funeral Insurance in Ethiopia and Tanzania


  • Stefan Dercon
  • Tessa Bold
  • Joachim De Weerdt
  • Alula Pankhurst


A funeral is a costly occasion. This paper studies indigenous insurance institutions developed to cope with the high costs of funerals, based on evidence from rural areas in Tanzania and Ethiopia. These institutions are based on well-defined rules and regulations, often offering premium-based insurance for funeral expenses. Increasingly, they are also offering other forms of insurance and credit to cope with hardship. The paper argues that the characteristics and inclusiveness of these institutions make them well-placed as models to broaden insurance provision and other developmental activities in these communities. The history of these institutions is characterised by a resistance to attempts of political capture, and helps to understand their apparent resistance to engage more broadly with NGOs and government agencies. As a result, any attempt to expand their activities will have to be done cautiously.

Suggested Citation

  • Stefan Dercon & Tessa Bold & Joachim De Weerdt & Alula Pankhurst, 2004. "Group-based Funeral Insurance in Ethiopia and Tanzania," CSAE Working Paper Series 2004-27, Centre for the Study of African Economies, University of Oxford.
  • Handle: RePEc:csa:wpaper:2004-27

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    References listed on IDEAS

    1. Ethan Ligon & Jonathan P. Thomas & Tim Worrall, 2002. "Informal Insurance Arrangements with Limited Commitment: Theory and Evidence from Village Economies," Review of Economic Studies, Oxford University Press, vol. 69(1), pages 209-244.
    2. Ghatak, Maitreesh, 1999. "Group lending, local information and peer selection," Journal of Development Economics, Elsevier, vol. 60(1), pages 27-50, October.
    3. Townsend, Robert M, 1994. "Risk and Insurance in Village India," Econometrica, Econometric Society, vol. 62(3), pages 539-591, May.
    4. Fafchamps, Marcel & Lund, Susan, 2003. "Risk-sharing networks in rural Philippines," Journal of Development Economics, Elsevier, vol. 71(2), pages 261-287, August.
    5. Jonathan Morduch, 1999. "The Microfinance Promise," Journal of Economic Literature, American Economic Association, vol. 37(4), pages 1569-1614, December.
    6. Besley, Timothy, 1995. "Savings, credit and insurance," Handbook of Development Economics,in: Hollis Chenery & T.N. Srinivasan (ed.), Handbook of Development Economics, edition 1, volume 3, chapter 36, pages 2123-2207 Elsevier.
    7. Stefan Dercon, 2002. "Income Risk, Coping Strategies, and Safety Nets," World Bank Research Observer, World Bank Group, vol. 17(2), pages 141-166, September.
    8. Tewodaj Mogues, 2005. "Shocks, Livestock Asset Dynamics, and Social Capital in Ethiopia," Development and Comp Systems 0512006, EconWPA.
    9. Robert M. Townsend, 1995. "Consumption Insurance: An Evaluation of Risk-Bearing Systems in Low-Income Economies," Journal of Economic Perspectives, American Economic Association, vol. 9(3), pages 83-102, Summer.
    10. Conning, Jonathan & Kevane, Michael, 2002. "Why isn't there more Financial Intermediation in Developing Countries?," WIDER Working Paper Series 028, World Institute for Development Economic Research (UNU-WIDER).
    11. Grimard, Franque, 1997. "Household consumption smoothing through ethnic ties: evidence from Cote d'Ivoire," Journal of Development Economics, Elsevier, vol. 53(2), pages 391-422, August.
    12. Stefan Dercon & Pramila Krishnan, 2000. "Vulnerability, seasonality and poverty in Ethiopia," Journal of Development Studies, Taylor & Francis Journals, vol. 36(6), pages 25-53.
    13. Coate, Stephen & Ravallion, Martin, 1993. "Reciprocity without commitment : Characterization and performance of informal insurance arrangements," Journal of Development Economics, Elsevier, vol. 40(1), pages 1-24, February.
    14. Mariam, Damen Haile, 2003. "Indigenous social insurance as an alternative financing mechanism for health care in Ethiopia (the case of eders)," Social Science & Medicine, Elsevier, vol. 56(8), pages 1719-1726, April.
    15. Jonathan Morduch, 1995. "Income Smoothing and Consumption Smoothing," Journal of Economic Perspectives, American Economic Association, vol. 9(3), pages 103-114, Summer.
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    17. Coetzee, Gerhard K. & Cross, Catherine, 2002. "Group Approaches To Financial Service Provision In Rural South Africa," Working Papers 18042, University of Pretoria, Department of Agricultural Economics, Extension and Rural Development.
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    More about this item


    Risk-Sharing; Insurance; Africa; Ethiopia; Tanzania;

    JEL classification:

    • O17 - Economic Development, Innovation, Technological Change, and Growth - - Economic Development - - - Formal and Informal Sectors; Shadow Economy; Institutional Arrangements
    • G22 - Financial Economics - - Financial Institutions and Services - - - Insurance; Insurance Companies; Actuarial Studies
    • Z13 - Other Special Topics - - Cultural Economics - - - Economic Sociology; Economic Anthropology; Language; Social and Economic Stratification


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