Microfinance is widely viewed as a sustainable solution to alleviating poverty in the developing world and is a view we share. To best provide microloans in Uganda, we felt we needed to operate a financial company based in the country.
In 2008, EIA established its microfinance institution, Mikwano Microfinance, in an effort to create economic viability in rural villages throughout the Rakai district. Mikwano means friendship in the Luganda, which is the most widely spoken tribal language in Uganda. The regulations and operations of Mikwano were created in close collaboration with community members to ensure that our services would have the highest impact on the lives of our clients given their geographic, economic, or social circumstances. From 2008-2012, Mikwano Microfinance disbursed 37 loans, in three tranches, totaling over $6,000 to test our loan screening methods and other processes. The loans were used for such enterprises as livestock, vegetable and fruit farming, welding, metalworking, and sewing.
In 2012, our program success led to increased demand for our services. To support increased demand we realized we would need to make some changes and restructure our microfinance operations.
- First, we reincorporated from a microfinance agency to a savings and credit cooperative (SACCO).
- Second, we decided to temporarily redirect funds from loans to construction of a building to house our Mikwano operations. Construction began in 2012 and was completed in July 2015. Our building is a fully furnished bank branch complete with two offices, a teller window and conference space (see photo in Appendix A). In September 2015, the building was wired for electricity and WIFI Internet access.
- Third, EIA remains committed to providing traditional microloans that include a social component focused on developing relationships with clients to help them grow their business. We will strive to advise clients on management of loans, regularly visit client businesses and offer relevant seminars.
In July 2016, Mikwano Microfinance finally began operations after hiring our branch manager, Nasseera Richard, and our loan officer, Ssempangi Patrick. With this small staff, and seed money raised during Spring 2016, Miwakno Microfinance collected loan applications and began a small loan cycle to pilot the operations of the SACCO.
Over the course of three days, Mikwano collected 103 applications loans. Given the money that we had for this loan cycle, we chose loan recipients based on a series of criteria that managed the risk of our institution, while also maximizing our impact in the community.
Loan Spotlight: Nakabiito Teddy
Nakabiito Teddy was among the first in the Bethlehem community to receive a loan from Mikwano. She has definitely shown herself to be a business savvy woman, having exponentially increased her profits over the last 3 years. She runs a business making banana pancakes in the Bethlehem village center. It has proven to be very lucrative, as Teddy has used the profits to pay her tuition at a local teacher’s college. This was not something achieved immediately. Teddy had the forethought to use the loans to buy her pancake-making materials in bulk, and then to use the profits from the business to buy livestock, which she then raised and sold off, giving her a considerable profit to use for tuition costs.
We are very excited to see Teddy flourish from the loan process. Her entrepreneurial spirit is a real inspiration to other loan recipients, which is why we have asked her to speak with other clients about ways to manage their loan repayments. Now, on her 3rd loan, Teddy plans to continue developing her pancake business, and then to use the profits to pay school fees for her children. She has future plans of buying a bicycle, which will help her transport her pancake products to other parts of the Bethlehem community.
Loan Spotlight: Balimuye Fred
Balimuye Fred is an important member of the Bethlehem community, serving both as a teacher and the headmaster of Bethlehem Parent’s School (BPS). He came to the community two years ago, after graduating with his degree in education. Working for BPS is both rewarding and tiring. With over 200 children living on campus, the teachers need to be on call 24/7 to supervise and mentor the children. BPS is a private, primary school, so they do not pay as much as government schools, though they offer a more intentional and intimate education.
Seeing the motivation and seriousness of Fred, Mikwano was eager to help him earn a more comfortable income by approving his loan application. Fred, while also being a gifted teacher, is an experienced tailor. He’s used his loan to make school uniforms for both BPS and the surrounding schools. The loan covered the start up costs, buying clothes, sewing needs, and thread in bulk. He says that he plans to use his profits to pay school fees, and buy food for his five children. Fred is truly an inspiration to both the children and other loan recipients.
Ssenyondo Andrew was one of the first Bethlehem community members to receive a loan from Mikwano, four years ago. He is a business man, focusing on the distilling and distribution of local spirits. Andrew has used previous loans to increase the size of his business. He explains that he has always had the capacity for a bigger business, but lacked the proper start-up income. This is where Mikwano has helped. He has been able to increase the amount of spirits that he is distilling, thus dramatically increasing his profits.
Andrew has been a model loan recipient. Consistently paying on schedule and seeing a significant changes in profits, we consider Andrew one of our most successful clients. At different times, we have asked Andrew to speak with other loan recipients, offering them advice on how to manage the loan and use it effectively. With this next loan, Andrew aims to increase his number of distilling barrels. He will then use the profits to replace the windows of his house and pay school fees for his children.
Loan Spotlight: Mutunzi Richard
Mutunzi Richard is certainly a special case from Mikwano Microfinance. Richard was one of the first street kids brought to BPS almost 10 years ago. Richard has grown into an entrepreneurial young man, as he’s saved money over the years and now runs his own shop in Bethlehem.
He received this loan so that he can buy some of his inventory in bulk, which saves him money on transportation costs. It’s really amazing to see a life transformed like Richard’s, and we are really excited to be a part of it!