Give Opportunity to the DR Congo

 
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 Agnes Kisandala

 A mother of seven, Agnes struggled for years as the primary breadwinner for her family. Her husband Emmanuel cannot find stable employment, leaving Agnes to ensure their children have enough to eat. Before finding Opportunity DRC, Agnes earned $100 per week by selling vegetables from her farm in the busy Masina market in Kinshasa. For a family of nine, this means that each member lived on less than $1.60 per day. Knowing she could not adequately feed her children, let alone send them to school with her income, Agnes made the life-changing decision to join Opportunity DRC.

As a member of the Yunus Trust Group, Agnes is receiving training to learn how to manage her business and increase her profit through wise investing of her initial $150 loan. She is benefiting from the encouragement and support of the other members of her Trust Group and her loan officer. Through prompt loan repayments, Agnes secured a second loan of $250. Productivity at her farm and vegetable business has improved significantly. Her weekly income increased by 60%, and she now employs three members of her community to work on her farm and transport vegetables to her market shop. “This is the first time I have ever had banking services or a bank account. I receive training from my loan officer Esperance who supports us and shows the love of Christ to everyone in our group.” 

With her increased income, Agnes now invests in her family’s nutrition by adding meat into their diet that consists mainly of the cassava based staple “fufu”. Agnes’s friends notice that she is more confident since partnering with Opportunity DRC, and she can see a change in both her situation and in herself. She draws confidence from now being able to provide for her family and to afford school fees for two of her children. She says, “I have an increased sense of hope for my children. I have grown to trust Opportunity and have learned too much to ever leave my new business partner.” 

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Agnes Kisandala, one of the first clients in DRC
Agnes Kisandala, one of the first clients in DRC

The Impact of your Support: Side by Side in DR Congo

Opportunity DRC launched its first branch in January 2011, and a second in May. Opportunity DRC finished 2011 serving 4,455 clients living in the capital city of Kinshasa in its first year of operation. In December, the staff had to cease lending due to the threat of political violence and macroeconomic challenges related to the presidential elections, but resumed normal operations in March 2012.

Businesses are growing and becoming profitable. Many clients have successfully repaid their first loan and are
investing their second. All clients undergo extensive, targeted financial literacy and transformative holistic life-skills training. Looking ahead, Opportunity DRC plans to:

  • open its third branch in Kinshasa in June and reach 15,000 loan clients by the end
    of 2012;
  • offer savings – the application submitted in March 2011 encountered unexpected political delays;
  • expand beyond Trust Group loans, adding Small Group, Individual and School Fee loans. 

New Happenings: Opportunity DR Congo opens in Gambela market

In May 2011 Opportunity opened the doors in the Gambela marketplace area of Kinshasa with the launch of its second branch. Building refurbishment is complete, IT equipment and systems are configured and installed and communications are live. Other Gambela branch highlights include:

  • Serving 822 clients with loans and a lending portfolio of $150,000. 
  • 66% of loans in Gambela are distributed to women.
  • Opportunity DRC strategically placed its branches in large marketplaces – Masina, on Kinshasa’s southeast side, and Gambela, near the city’s center.
  • Gambela clients received training on infectious disease prevention and management in conjunction with the local hospital. Response was excellent with clients commenting that other micro-finance institutions do not offer training opportunities.
  • More than 1,000 pair of shoes and book bags have been distributed to clients through a partnership with Samaritan’s Feet.

By the end of 2012, Opportunity expects to achieve the following in Gambela:

  • Launch 100 new Trust Groups
  • Achieve portfolio of 2,500 active loan clients
    • Disburse $400,000 in loans 
    • Launch savings products when deposit-taking license is secured

As we reach the one-year milestone of making a difference in the DR Congo, we celebrate the lasting change that has been created. Entrepreneurs have been empowered to reach their potential, and you have helped provide the tools they need to succeed.

Nadine Pembele, is head of training for Opportunity International in the Democratic Republic of the Congo. Nadine assists with staff recruitment, manages staff training, updates current staff programs and presents modules on customer care. She also manages the induction program for new staff, facilitates company events, and with the CEO, develops training on transformation. Following her studies at Christian University of Kinshasa, she joined Opportunity DRC in July of 2010 and participated in its grand opening.

Nadine Pembele spoke at the Opportunity International Conference this past fall and here are some highlights: 

 

..."The DRC, once known as Zaire, is the second largest country in Africa after Algeria, with a population estimated at nearly 72 million, 60% of whom are under age 20. Its size is equivalent to that of the 24 countries of the European Union. You can see the potential and opportunities that are available in the DRC. However, from 1997 to 2007, two wars destroyed the only few infrastructures and productive activities that still remained in the country. People were forced to live in poor economic, inhumane, and unsanitary conditions. A decade of violence and systematic abuse has stigmatized many of the people who, to this day, continue to bear the consequences of these atrocities. More and more people continue to die due to curable diseases and inadequate public services, infrastructure, equipment and access to care, particularly in rural areas. And our rate of infant mortality is one of the highest in the world and 80% of our people live on one dollar or less a day." 

 

... "Opportunity DRC’s mission is to help change the statistics I’ve just reported–by helping people living in poverty through financial tools and training to transform their lives. Every member of our bank is committed to support this mission as a team. Opportunity DRC will fulfill our mission by equipping and empowering people not only with the right financial tools, but through financial literacy training, coaching, health education and basic life skills. We believe that transformation cannot happen without a holistic approach to serving our clients."

 

... "At Opportunity DRC, we are guided to act from by our core values, not only in the workplace but in our personal lives. Only in this way can we experience the transformation that we seek to see in others. Before coming to Opportunity DRC, I had only my hope in God and my desire to keep the values that allow an individual to grow inwardly first. Since joining the bank I have a place where I cannot only blossom but can share these beliefs for the development of my community."

You are helping Opportunity reach out to clients like Andre Landu, pictured right, standing side by side with his loan officer. Until recently, Andre struggled to earn a profit selling luggage at the Liberty Market in Kinshasa. Then he heard about Opportunity International. In just a few short months Andre has increased his income by 50% by investing his loan to expand and diversify his inventory of bags and by incorporating all he has learned from his loan officer, Patrick Kamunga (pictured left) to bring his business to sustainability and profitability. Today, Andre is making plans for the future and says, “I am grateful for all I have learned; I am evolving as a businessman. I am learning to develop recognition in the market which is bringing me respect from fellow business operators and bringing me more return customers.”   

Opportunity DRC clients with their loan officer.
Opportunity DRC clients with their loan officer.

Opportunity Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC) celebrated its grand opening on May 19th in the capital city of Kinshasa. Since Opportunity International‘s arrival in the DRC, we’ve seen marked changes in the lives of the Congolese people. More than 690 Opportunity DRC clients have already received loans to grow their businesses. Two-thirds of our loan recipients are women and the average loan is around $190. One of the first microfinance institutions to use biometric fingerprint technology in the Congo, Opportunity enables clients who don’t have formal identification to securely access their financial information.

Currently, Opportunity DRC has a staff of 32–11 of whom are loan officers. The staff, comprised mostly of university graduates, is subjected to a rigorous recruitment process. Recently, five women graduated from the Goldman Sachs’ 10,000 Women Emerging Leaders Program. This program provided the women with the knowledge and skills they needed to become training managers.

Since launching our operations, Opportunity DRC has distributed hundreds of loans and has provided in-depth financial training along with each one. In the future, Opportunity DRC will secure its deposit-taking license to begin accepting savings deposits, and they plan to open more branches in Kinshasa.

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Project Leader

Ally Lynch

Oakbrook, IL United States

Where is this project located?

Map of Give Opportunity to the DR Congo