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By Yegs Ramiah, 16 March 2015
A unique social experiment in which an ordinary South African lived entirely on R1 coins for a month, the One Rand Man became a household name and sparked a national conversation around saving and spending. Just over six months later, the impact of this remarkable project is still being felt – and the lessons learned are being turned into educational tools for use by schools and financial advisers.
The experiment, spearheaded by leading financial services group Sanlam, was aimed at encouraging South Africans to reconsider the way they spend and save – down to the last R1 coin. “We do not have a savings culture in this country so just talking about the importance of saving was not going to have an impact. We needed to hold up a mirror if we really wanted to make South Africans stop and think about the way we spend. Furthermore, online banking, mobile apps and easy access to credit have completely disconnected us from our money," says Yegs Ramiah, chief executive Sanlam Brand.
Finance Minister Nhlanhla Nene amplified his concern for this trend during his 2015 budget speech yesterday: “The problem of excessive household indebtedness remains a serious challenge. Approximately 45 per cent of credit-active consumers have impaired credit records”
"This unique experiment taught us that in a world of plastic and credit where money is easy come, easy go, there is a need to reconnect with our cash. To touch it, feel it and save it! We managed to illustrate the importance of saving in a novel way, changing the way people think - and hopefully behave, empowering them to be able to live their best possible lives. Because the reality is that the relationship we have with money today will determine the kind of life we have in the future."
The everyday experiences of the One Rand Man – a 32-year-old architectural consultant from Cape Town – were edited into five documentary episodes and hosted online. These ‘webisodes’ included commentary by Sanlam experts. The result was a tsunami of headline articles, magazine covers, posters on lampposts, tweets and social media shares. Conversations around savings took off, and by the end of the month, the webisodes had notched up over 900 000 views.
Most importantly, South Africans were inspired and educated about saving money. By the end of July, 80% of the comments on social media were mentioning changes in people’s financial behaviour. Ordinary South Africans were thanking the One Rand Man for sharing his lessons in a way they could relate to – and pledging to take a closer look at their own finances.
The success of the social experiment was underscored by educational institutions requesting permission to use the series during lectures.
Sanlam realised that this was an opportunity to shift the perceptions of especially young South Africans around the importance of spending wisely and saving for the future. A 20-minute documentary, interspersed with insights and observations by Sanlam and other experts, as well as documentation on the lessons learned during the experiment, will now be made available to schools, as well as financial advisers who want to educate their clients.
The 20-minute One Rand Man documentary can be viewed on