Wednesday, February 27, 2013

Navigating through a computer literate era


Caleb Ochieng is a very hardworking and opportunistic man. After disposing of his job as a social security services employee, which he had held onto for 9 years, he moved into the profitable cyber café management business. With sheer determination and diligence, Caleb utilized his business savvy techniques to establish a computer training college. He recognized the need amongst the young people in his community to acquire computer literacy skills and he has successfully made a profitable living out of this innovative venture. Below is a recent update from one of our Client Relationship Managers in Kenya:


Greetings lenders! My name is Neil DiMuccio, and I am a Client Relationship Manager with Zidisha in Kenya. I am currently visiting borrowers to learn more about them and support them with their Zidisha loans. It is my hope that this work will build bridges to better connection and understanding, and that Zidisha and its borrowers will increasingly grow, communicate, and support each other.

I was recently very lucky to meet with Caleb Ochieng in Utawala / Githunguri, a small town some 25 kilometers East of Nairobi.

Caleb is a father and business owner of a cyber café named Half London, which is a very nice facility that he obviously takes pride in. When I visited him, his young children were there, using computers to watch new movies on Youtube. I was able to see firsthand Caleb’s investment in his new printers, because I just so happened to need to print some 20 pages for a document that I’ve been using to do New Borrower Orientations with Zidisha. The printers are of very nice quality, and he should be able to recoup his costs on this investment in just a few months.

Caleb has worked in many other areas of the economy, but decided to open a cyber café partially because he wanted his children to grow up being very computer savvy. He is an exceptionally kind and soft spoken man, and at the end of our meeting I decided to ask him if he would become a Community Organizer, which is a local volunteer with Zidisha. Community Organizers are vital to maintaining communications and spreading the word about Zidisha, and I was very happy when Caleb accepted.

One interesting anecdote was that while we were logged in to Caleb’s profile and checking his repayment schedule, he mentioned that one of the payments shown had not been made by him. I’d like to take this time to publicly applaud his honesty in this matter.

While I was visiting Caleb, some 5 other Zidisha borrowers and applicants from the community dropped in to say hello and ask me questions, thus proving that Caleb’s café was something of an ideal community meeting place for Zidisha.

Thank you so much for taking the time to meet, Caleb. Best wishes in all your future endeavors!



Friday, February 22, 2013

Establishing Connections



Greetings lenders! My name is Neil DiMuccio, and I am a Client Relationship Manager with Zidisha in Kenya. I am currently visiting borrowers to learn more about them and support them with their Zidisha loans. It is my hope that this work will build bridges to better connection and understanding, and that Zidisha and its borrowers will increasingly grow, communicate, and support each other.

I recently had the opportunity to meet and work extensively with Robert Ndungu, who also goes by Robert Njoroge. To be perfectly honest, I was thrilled to meet this man, because he was the first person I had lent to using the Zidisha platform last year! I decided to lend to Robert because he was offering a high interest rate (at the time), because he had numerous sources of income, and because he seemed to be something of a pillar in his community. My visits to Karunga have affirmed these thoughts – Robert is a well-known, hard-working, and productive member of his community!

I made several visits to Karunga, a small agricultural community some 12 kilometers North and East of Nakuru near Bahati. This town is a hotspot for Zidisha borrowers, with some 30-40 persons having Zidisha loans in the area, due in part to the work of gentlemen such as Robert, who is a Zidisha Community Organizer for Karunga. Luckily, the ride to Karunga is gorgeous. Imagine this: getting on back of a motorbike, and zipping along a bumpy and rutted dirt road, seeing fields of wheat, corn, and sunflower underneath a canopy of trees. All this while cows and goats graze idyllically, and locals smile and wave to you. Living and working in Kenya may not always be easy or comfortable, but it certainly has its pleasures!

Anyway, Robert was kind enough to let me photograph him in his shop, and was selfless in giving of his time to walk me around and introduce me to many Zidisha borrowers, translating to Kikuyu, Swahili and English as needed. We also had lunch together at one point, with other Community Organizers of Karunga, where we talked, laughed, and discussed Zidisha’s impact on the community. It was agreed that Zidisha’s low-interest loans were very helpful, but that further services would be of benefit, such as medium-scale agriculture and engineering projects, to do things like aiding farmers in irrigation (I believe the region is currently mostly without irrigation).
Please join me in thanking Robert for setting a great example with his use of Zidisha, as well as his tireless service of helping those around him in his community. Thank you, Robert! Best wishes and God Bless. 

Wednesday, January 30, 2013

Versatility is the key to success


Here is the latest update from our Client Relationship Manager in Kenya!

Hello, my name is Dan Cembrola, one of Zidisha’s Kenya Client Relationship Managers. I am currently visiting Zidisha borrowers in Nakuru and its outskirts.

Today I met with Josephine in Kahuo, a small village 25 kilometers north of Nakuru. Kahuo is a small agricultural village and is also Josephine's birthplace. She now lives in Nakuru where she is a primary school teacher, teaching English, Swahili, and mathematics. However, she still is very interested in business and maintains a poultry business in Kahuo.

Josephine used to raise a breed of chickens that are locally referred to as "broilers." She found that it was too costly to maintain them and purchase the type of feeds they require. To rectify this problem, she decided to use a portion of her loan from Zidisha to invest in 150 chickens that are of a breed that is indigenous to Kenya.
 
From the 150 chickens, Josephine was able to get around two trays of eggs per day. There are thirty eggs per tray, this is the method in which eggs are sold in the local markets here. Josephine sells each tray for 450 Kenyan Schillings. An income of 900 schillings today is very good in this region of Kenya, especially considering that Josephine is also employed as a teacher.

Unfortunately, Josephine suffered a setback when nearly two thirds of her chickens died due to Newcastle disease. This is an all too common problem among poultry farms in Kenya. Josephine was able to replace the chickens she had lost and has had the new chicks vaccinated against Newcastle disease. Her business is now once again operating at its previous strength. She also occasionally sells her chickens to local butchers where she makes 800 schillings per rooster and 600 schillings per hen.

In addition to purchasing chickens with her loan, Josephine also purchased four sheep. Once each sheep has given birth to a lamb, she will sell each adult sheep for a profit of 1,500 schillings per sheep. She will then raise the lambs until they older enough to give birth, and repeat the process.

Finally, Josephine also maintains a one acre farm where she grows maize. This is also where her chicken and sheep are located. She employs one local farmhand to take care of the day-to-day maintenance. With her next loan, Josephine plans to invest in the expansion of her poultry and sheep business as well as her farm.


Tuesday, January 22, 2013

Following a Proven Path to Success



Hello Lenders,

My name is Andrew Weber and I recently served as a Zidisha Client Relationship Manager in Kenya. There I paid a visit to James at his business in a town on the outskirts of Nairobi. For years James watched as a friend consistently maintained a healthy profit operating a clothing store. James was already doing ok with his existing businesses selling charcoal and operating a motorbike taxi, but he wanted a little something extra to help support his wife and 3 children aged 12, 8 and 5. So he has decided to follow the proven copycat path to business success and has opened his own clothing store now.

James used his Zidisha loan to enable this new business to get off the ground. He now has store fully stocked with clothing for men, women, and children. He has only been open for about a month but the early returns are strong. He is on pace to make about $140 on each large been of clothes he sells. If the business continues to do well he hopes to move his family into a large home. James’ plan to emulate his friend’s success appears to be perfectly on course right now. 

Monday, January 14, 2013

Education building through poverty mitigation


Despite having had an education halted at eighth grade, Annah Njeri grew up with the sole belief that education correlates to responsibility and empowerment. She initially started her stationary business for the purpose of having her children’s needs met and to accumulate money for herself and her family. She has pursued a strategic business model since 1997 and has achieved considerable successes in her ventures. Below is a recent update from our Client Relationship Manager in Kenya:

Hello, my name is Traci Yoshiyama, Zidisha’s Kenya Client Relationship Manager. I am currently visiting Zidisha borrowers in and around Nairobi.

An assortment of bright colors sweep the main street of Ongata Rongai, as stalls displaying neatly piled fruits and vegetables overtake the Soko Mjinga market. Mjinga, meaning fool in English, began with only ten stalls and constant ridicule and doubt from the community. But as profits were made, ten quickly grew to hundreds, and although the name stuck, many prosperous entrepreneurs can be found here. As I walk through the narrow pathways, ripe tomatoes, juicy watermelons, pungent onions, produce galore overwhelm the senses. But if you look close enough, you’ll notice something out of the ordinary; a table enveloped in school supplies and random knick-knacks. Welcome to Annah Njeri’s shop.

Five years ago, Annah decided to start her own business, a business that promoted education. Having two children herself, she understood the importance of having educational tools readily available to all. Although pens and notebooks are the most frequent sellers, Annah is not short on textbooks, newly wrapped in plastic and in pristine condition. Calculators, rulers, even nail clippers, combs, and mirrors can also be found at her shop. Cleverly placed amongst the produce section, Annah has little competition and can reap the benefits of the heavy foot traffic brought on by the fruits and vegetables.

I met Annah before she joined Zidisha, glad to visit her again, this time a borrower and having recently received a loan. The elation on Annah’s face is obvious, as the loan came at the exact moment she needed it. School just starting this week, parents carrying handwritten school supply lists shop for their children. Throughout my visit, I often waited happily on the side as Annah assisted her many customers. Immediately upon my arrival, she showed me two big boxes, all filled with textbooks, just purchased with her Zidisha loan. Eager to pay back early, Annah wants to take out a second loan, hoping to expand her shop beyond Soko Mjinga market. Also worth mentioning is Annah’s dedication to Zidisha, as she is now learning how to use a computer (many thanks to Zidisha borrower, Josephine Nyang’au), which will allow her to deal with Zidisha matters on her own.

Hard workers are an easy find in Kenya, Annah proudly being amongst the thousands. Due to the high interest in Zidisha at Soko Mjinga market, I know I will be seeing Annah again. Annah, it was a pleasure to visit and thank you for welcoming me back. I am so happy that the Zidisha loan has helped!



Friday, January 11, 2013

Emerging trends in microfinance


Financial inclusion continues to be one of the key challenges in the microfinance sector today that would play an integral role in shaping its performance in the future. At the Mexico G20 summit last summer, 17 countries led by the Presidents of Chile, Indonesia, and Mexico publicly committed to advance financial inclusion. Although the term microfinance has been associated with the working methodologies of Muhammad Yunus of Grameen Bank and with organizations such as Opportunity International, Accion and ASA, its employment as a tool to fight against poverty has always been debated, since its usage still lacks a necessary component to creating successful entrepreneurship values.

The concentration of MFIs have been growing in the regions of Africa, Latin America and Asia over the years, and this trend is attributable to the increasing below-poverty line population in those regions alongside the proliferation of the urban poor. Primary sources of funds for early MFIs were generated from savings of clientele and venture capitalist funding. However, the scenario has been changing rapidly. Nowadays, Central Banks across the globe have been taking initiatives to allocate financial services to the poorest of the poor; this in turn, has enabled hundreds of MFIs around the globe to become profitable in the long run. Commercial banks have begun to acknowledge the profits they can achieve from the low end of the retail market and mobile phone operators continue to discover innovative methods of allowing the poor to access mobile-based banking services.

Over the past year, there have been various trends that have emerged in the microfinance sector as businesses and individuals continue to realize the benefits of microfinance. Some innovative trends that have been adopted by microfinance institutions as they try to make their solutions more sustainable are listed below-

   Specialized Microfinance Institutions: Microfinance institutions are focusing on customer specific demands, which vary across a wide range of customers and according to the location. Last year saw an increasing progress in translating the needs of the poor into improved context-specific product offerings and policy approaches. A set of providers across the globe accelerated experimentation with innovative products that better match people’s savings needs and behaviors. For example, Jipange KuSave in Kenya tested the provision of interest-free loans with a third of the amount held back as savings. Opportunity Bank in Malawi has a commitment savings product for farmers that allow them to lock away their post-harvest payouts and distribute it over the year to smooth cash flows.
   Diversification of Microfinance Institutions: Microfinance institutions believe in offering broad range of products and services under an umbrella of microfinance that previously started with small loans, now offers money transfer, insurance and savings services as well.
    New channels: Branchless banking and franchisee-based services have become extremely effective and prevalent these days to approach potential clients who live in rural areas. One of the top developments in Kenya’s branchless banking industry was the launching of M-Shwari in Kenya, which provided access to savings and loans to M-Pesa customers. Through a partnership between Vodafone, Safaricom and the Commercial Bank of Africa, M-Pesa customers can now apply to CBA for a mini-loan and sign up for an interest bearing savings account, directly from their phones. Since its launch in November, M-Shwari now has 1million users.
   Turnkey Solutions: Most of the microfinance institutions have started offering services to their clients that differ from traditional services like savings, insurance and loans. Some MFIs offer services such as supply chain management or assisting with marketing infrastructure to grow micro-businesses.