Her journey started with you. Families living in chronic poverty are making the most of the opportunities you make possible, living their dream of having a different and better life. Because you invested in Opportunity Malawi, we can continue to invest in people like Beatrice Ngombe of Lilongwe, Malawi as we expand deeper into rural communities where the daily challenges associated with poverty hit the hardest.
Each month, Beatrice hires transport for dried fish, rice and soap to sell at markets in Zambia. For the 16-hour return trip she invests her profit to buy 50 bolts of the finest cloth in Zambia to sell to store owners in Lilongwe.
Remarkably, this 57-year-old woman, who has lived in extreme poverty most of her life, has learned to negotiate the transport, storage and sale of these goods, establishing a supply chain spanning two countries. It all began when Beatrice left her abusive husband and opened a goods stall to support her two children. A natural entrepreneur, she believed that with hard work and ingenuity she could build a successful business. Beatrice applied for her first loan and opened a savings account with Opportunity Malawi in 2004. Today, on her 7th loan, this one valuing $2,700, she has grown her business from a table top to an import/export business, creating jobs for 12 people.
With Beatrice’s increased profits and savings, and a great deal of determination over eight years, she has constructed a home with a concrete floor, running water and electricity. She has also secured plots with plans to build rental homes. Perhaps most importantly, she has impacted the future of her grandson and three granddaughters, all orphaned at an early age, by paying for their secondary education. She also mentors several young women in her community, encouraging them to save money and build their businesses. Despite the difficult circumstances of her life, Beatrice lives with energy, passion, dignity and hope. She says, “I am a living example of what a woman can accomplish through hard work and economic empowerment.”
Malawi is cautiously returning to lending after the intentional slow-down associated with the 2011-2012 macroeconomic issues in the country. The School Improvement loan was re-launched in December alongside the launch of School Fee loans. As a result, the active outstanding School Improvement loans rose from 15 to 18, a growth of 20% since the third quarter of 2012. This return to growth is a positive sign that we will achieve new growth in 2013 as projected. Clients are expected to begin taking advantage of the School Fee loans in the first half of 2013.
Opportunity’s EduSave product, designed with MicroEnsure, directly addresses this gap by enabling parents to earn an extra safety net. EduSave works when a parent saves enough money to qualify for free insurance. For example, when a parent saves $25 they qualify for $125 in school fees insurance – if they die or become permanently disabled, a trusted individual receives a payout of 5x the savings balance to keep the child in school.
The product launched in Malawi with 170,000 parents qualified for coverage on the first day. Our average savings account holder has 3.8 children – therefore, on its first day, EduSave covered 646,000 Malawian children. The product also went live on a national scale in Ghana and is set to launch in Uganda.
With your support, we are funding the loans, services and expansion that allow smallholder farmers to increase their crops and grow more food. As harvest quality and quantities rise, food security improves, school fees are paid, homes are improved and jobs are created, families and the local community reap the benefits. Through this project, you are allowing Opportunity to extend a full range of financial services to rural Malawi, including access to savings accounts and the provision of comprehensive, crop-specific agricultural loans to farmers.
Brenda Mwenitete is the hardworking owner of a knitting shop in the Chitipa Market. She recalls the challenges she faced before approaching Opportunity, struggling to earn a profit without a knitting machine.
You gave Brenda the opportunity and today, with the right equipment, she has increased production and her income significantly. With operating capital, she has effectively reduced the number of trips into Lilongwe, the capital city, to purchase raw materials – traveling once per month instead of weekly has allowed her to lower costs, increasing her net profit. With a broader inventory and improved ability to fill orders, she has broken the barriers that barred her from earning a profit. Brenda recently purchased two knitting machines and hired an employee, stretching her impact beyond her own transformation to extend to the larger community influencing the economy through job creation. She enjoys the relationship she has with her Trust Group and praises the way in which bank staff visits customers frequently to mentor and support. “My loan officer has been my lifeline, instilling a sense of belonging in the community.” Brenda has transformed into a respected businesswoman and she has employed her new sense of confidence to take on a leadership role as group secretary.
Brenda formed the dream; you gave her the opportunity to make it a reality. On behalf of Betha and Brenda and thousands of other families, thank you very much for your partnership.
Opportunity Malawi weathers the economic storm, with your partnership
Malawi is one of the poorest countries in the world, with 90% of the population living below $2 a day. Macroeconomic issues in 2010-2011 continued into 2012, hitting the poorest families the hardest. Under new president, Joyce Banda, Malawi is recovering from the effects of the former president’s actions. With the international donor community supporting the new administration, fuel availability and cost and foreign exchange are improving the outlook. Amidst the economic turbulence, Opportunity Malawi made adjustments to meet the needs of struggling families and marched forward with its outreach goals.
Our global network team is ensuring that Opportunity Malawi emerges from the economic crisis stronger as a result of our continued focus on our mission, vision and long-term strategy. During the first half of the year, Opportunity Malawi achieved increased outreach in the following ways:
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