I will be back!

After 3 months being in the sun and warmth I was quite surprised to see a few nice fall days back in Zurich.
Retrospective these past 3 months were really a once in a lifetime chance and I am glad Credit Suisse gave me the possibility to participate in the Global Citizens Program. I met great people and made lifetime friendships. Tanzania is a beautiful country and I will be back for sure. The work experience I gained and the support I could give is very valuable to me but also to FINCA TZ. Savings is a regular topic in our western world but definitely a start into a better life in developing countries and therefore makes savings very special and important to Tanzania. I am glad I was part of the savings roll out at FINCA Tanzania!

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Time is running… out!

From middle of Sept. until middle of October I really felt the pressure. The pressure of getting things done at work, seeing things in Dar I have missed so far and also preparing to bring things home to remember for myself but also as gifts for friends and family. Luckily we went on the third and last road trip so that I did not have time to think about the end of my assignment.

The end of September/beginning of October we went to the Western and Lake Region. This means a lot of driving but also seeing Lake Victoria, towns close by gold mines and Serengeti. Since we decided to take the van again we needed to drive all the way to Shinyanga. In the end it was 1’000 km away and a 14 hour trip on a sunday. In between we had some refreshments, e.g. grilled chicken. We were all happy once we arrived. One day in a car, very exhausting!

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We visited all 4 branches in the Western region and talked to staff about savings. There is still a lot of work to be done. The knowledge level among staff and branch manager was still quite low. Therefore we talked a lot to staff not just about the savings products but also about why savings is important to FINCA and clients. Lunch and dinner with fish from Lake Victoria was almost a must if you didn’t want to earn bad looks. Every town was different, very interesting to see. And when we left the Western part we actually took a short cut with the ferry crossing Lake Victoria. Lake Victoria is huge I can assure you! I only saw a small piece of it on the southern tip, though. The shore with all these rocks is very pretty and reminded me a bit on Scandinavia.

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The 4 branches on the eastern side of the lake belonged to the Lake Region. We held e.g. a client meeting up in Tarime, very close to the Kenyan border. It was very successful with a prospect owning a school and radio station. In Mwanza, the biggest town at the lake, fish was omnipresent. Leaving and flying back to Dar meant that almost everyone of us was checking in a bucket of fish for family and friends.

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After the trip I only had 6 more days in total and only 3 in the office left. Where did the time go? The days in the office were affected by holding the last meetings, esp. for the savings reports, doing some savings presentations, attending the Regional Managers meeting talking on savings but also wrapping up and preparing a small farewell well Get Together. I have to admit it were very busy 3 days! The farewell at the headquarter was great. Most people joined and I really felt that I will miss all of them a lot and that my 3 month-stay as a Credit Suisse Global Citizen was a success.

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Give a little, change a lot

From mid August until beginning of Sept. it was travel time. I had the chance to see different regions and branches of FINCA Tanzania.

FINCA consists of 6 regions:
– Dar es Salaam with currently 3 branches, 2 new ones to come soon,
– Central region with 5 branches incl. Dodoma, the capital of Tanzania,
– Southern Highlands with 4 branches
– Northern region with 4 branches incl. Moshi (Mt. Kilimanjaro) and Arusha (Mt. Meru)
– Lake Zone region with 4 branches incl. Mwanza on Lake Victoria and
– Western region with 4 branches

Within the 3 weeks I was travelling with the FINCA van to Northern, Central and Southern region, Dar es Salaam, Muheza, Tanga, Moshi, Arusha, Dar es Salaam, Morogoro, Kibaya, Mpwapwa, Dodoma, Ifakara, Njombe, Songea, Mbeya, Iringa, Dar es Salaam.

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Main focus of the trip was to inform all loan officers personally about the new salary structure which was approved by the board at the beginning of the month and effective as of August 2013. The new compensation resulted in less incentives for loan officers reg. no. of clients  in portfolio and its quality but in a higher base salary recognizing the job itself as well as the experience and performance of the individuals. Overall the objective of FINCA TZ is to increase staff satisfaction, to reduce turnover and to create career paths for staff members in order to develop within the organization. Since basically the whole branch was present when either the CEO or COO presented the new HR strategy, it was a great opportunity for Irene, savings manager, and me to held a presentation on savings, too.

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Most of the loan officers had rarely contact with the savings topic so far, so it really made sense and was very important to educate them directly why FINCA rolls out savings in the country, what the central bank expects from us, what the features and benefits are for the clients and why we need everybody to be a Savings Ambassador. The discussions between and after the presentation were very interesting. I learnt a lot about the thinking of staff, what their concerns are and what the barriers for clients are when it comes to the crucial decision of opening an account. Since I am not fluent in Kiswahili, colleagues added to or translated main points from English into Kiswahili. The language barrier is definitely something to take serious, from both sides when it comes to communication. English is usually spoken in school here but not many people practice English afterwards or have a chance to use it. That’s why most loan officers are not confident to raise a question in English until someone breaks the ice. Once the discussion starts in Kiswahili it is a different story and all the sudden the room becomes more lively but then it is my turn – that I need a translater. But I figure it is better this way to reach our goal that staff understands the basics of savings. When FINCA talks to clients, English as the corporate language is always replaced by Kiwahili. During most of our branch visits, the branches organized client meetings in a special venue offering soft drinks as well. Between 30 and 100 clients came each time to listen what FINCA had to say. It was very important to us, to understand their needs so we asked them to give us their feedback and what we can do better. Main part of the presentation besides getting feedback and interacting with clients, was introducing savings to them first hand. Most people did not know that FINCA started savings but really liked the offering.

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From the PR perspective we made sure that people knew we are in town. We had TV- and radio coverage of some client meetings and in Morogoro even we went to the local TV station.

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We also took the chance to visit loan clients at their businesses. That was very impressive as I now really understand what the individual impact for clients can be when receiving a loan from FINCA. We visited e. g. a female client at Arusha who grows vegetables, fruits and plants on a bio-basis. She owns one cow and that is enough for her to produce electricity for the whole family house, for cooking but also for crop spraying. All of her products are already sold from hotels or other business around Arusha and just need to grow before giving away. She also feeds a near by school with her products. Her personality was so friendly and innovative, really something to look at when trying to get new ideas and or new perspectives. With a current loan of ca. TZS 2m (ca. CHF 1k) it is immense what people can achieve in Tanzania. And it will surely not be her last loan, but probably the last one with such a little amount. Her bio-business has met the need of people. All in all, hopefully our branch visits and client meetings will help FINCA to build a strong savings business besides loans in the near future.

Travelling around different parts of the country was at least as interesting to me as visiting branches and clients. The countryside really changes from one region to another. Soil color can be yellowish but all the sudden turn into red. Bushes are mainly found in one area along the road and e.g. beautiful Baobabs line up unexpectedly in a different place. At one point the highway goes directly through Mikumi National Park where we saw giraffes, zebras, elefants, buffalos and impalas right along the road – welcome to Tanzania. J Temperature and altitude also change from town to town. Travelling to Njombe meant being in 1’900 m altitude and freezing our butts off by not more than 10 degrees, I swear. We also past a lot of little villages where Tanzanians live. This  really makes me understand why this country has more than 1/3 of the population living in real poverty while others have some more money but in the eyes of a western still live in poor surroundings. I always also enjoy looking at the vegetable stands along the road and how nicely everything is set up. Unfortunately they always want you to buy a whole bucket! But buying food there is definitely more helpful than anywhere else.

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I am so glad I got the chance to travel around and see Tanzania from a local perspective. Back in Dar it can be very local but if you seek you always find small “Muzungo”-islands (by that I mean esp. restaurants where the majority of people is white and western) where you feel like being in the midst of Europe; only the Indian ocean makes you realize that you are definitely in Tanzania with summer temperature all year around. Karibu Tanzania!

Where bush meets the ocean

A few impressions from Saadani National Park

  • Picture 1: Tent with a view
  • Picture 2: Ocean
  • Picture 3: Lion
  • Picture 4: Lions on honeymoon
  • Picture 5: Kingfisher
  • Picture 6: Malachite
  • Picture 7: Wami river with hippos
  • Picture 8: Crocodile (not a fake one)
  • Picture 9: Elephants
  • Picture 10: Giraffe
  • Picture 11: Sea salt production in Saadani village

 

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Behind the scenes

Where did the first month went? I cannot believe how time flies. As I am writing this, I am on the road. For the next 2.5 weeks we are visiting branches in the northern, central and south region. Lake region is planed for September. I think I am pretty lucky to get the opportunity to get to know so many different parts of the country, FINCA staff and its clients.
The last 2 weeks were filled with meetings and workshops and getting to know a lot of new people.

At first Laura from the Zurich office of Credit Suisse, being resonsible for Microfinance and the GCP, came to Dar to meet clients and to see the progress of initiatives which Credit Suisse currently supports. It was great meeting her in Dar.
Two weeks ago FINCA TZ then hosted the Regional Meeting Africa in Dar where all African subsiduaries plus collegues from the FINCA International headquarter joined. Depending on the staff’ function many different meetings were conducted. I attended the different Marketing workshops about the FINCA website and segmentation. It was very interesting and job-enriching. It is great to see how motivated and professional FINCA approaches different topics and tries to establish the same thinking worldwide. Looking behind the scenes is very impressing, esp. getting to know how the microfinance institution works. During the same week FINCA and MasterCard Foundation launched their new initiative about alternative delivery channels in a press conference held in Dar. It was great to see another example for FINCA receiving support besides Credit Suisse.
Last week FINCA Tanzania started its budget 2014 sessions with the different TZ regions and product specialists. Most impressive for me was the process on agreeing on targets. Targets are set from bottom- up in the first stage. So we discussed what growth and volume could be reached by the end of 2014. The final budget should be approved at the latest by Dec. 2013. And I am really curious to see if the numbers that the savings Manager and I proposed are gonna get approved and really hit by next year. That would be a great success and help for funding the huge loan portfolio.
Besides all these meetings I am currently designing a standard report on savings volumes and its clients in order to gain transparency and for management to get an quick overview on the growth but also on client’s behaviour whenever it is needed .

After all these different meetings I took the chance and got out of Dar es Salaam for the first time. What a great break – 2 holidays (Farmers Day & End of Ramadan) on a thursday and friday – perfect for a visit to a National Park. I went to Sadaani Nt. Park about 4 hrs north of Dar. Situated on the ocean and blessed with game and a river, I saw a lot of different animals like lions, elephants, giraffes, hippos, crocodiles, eagles and beautiful malachite kingfisher. Swimming in the ocean was great, in the shallow water it felt like bathing in a bath tub but once being in deeper water it became really fresh. What I really liked about this place was my tent with a view. It was only a few metres away from the ocean and the tent was furnisehd and decorated with material from the surroundings. After a relaxing weekend the travel around Tanzania starts. Cannot wait to see the country!

Touching Africa

It is time to write a bit more about the FINCA products and about Africa resp. Tanzania itself.

FINCA Tanzania launched 2 account products in March 2013 and is now offering savings accounts as well as loans. They were piloted in the 3 branches in Dar (Magomeni, Temeke and Ilala) and will be rolled out to the country in two waves. August 1, 2013 seven branches will be additionally offering savings accounts and then the rest will follow in September/ October. When I am talking about savings products, the current product offering exists of Mkwanja and Mipango Account.

Mkwanja Account (Mkwanja means in Kiswahili money)

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Mkwanja Account fulfills a lot of different functions und offers basic banking services to a wide variety of clients. The account is (from the view of coming from a mature market) a current account for privates & corporates as well  as a regular savings account without a limitation of a certain client group. The most competitive feature is the pricing. The account is free of charge and compared to the competitors in the market the only account without fees, no matter whether we are talking about an opening/ closing or monthly fee. The strategy behind it, is to attract clients with all backgrounds and giving them the opportunity to use banking services. The account opening is restricted to branches channel-wise due to the necessity of taking a picture and a finger print of the client. Money transfers are currently limited to the FINCA client portfolio. Depositing or withdrawing money is done via branch and cash, FINCA cheque or M-PESA. M-PESA is a mobile e-wallet where clients (currently offered for Vodacom clients) can put in money or even withdraw it. Then with a special transaction code it can be transferred to and from the Mkwanja account. All in all, it is pretty much like a regular current account with 2% interest rate p.a. and ready for the vast unbanked population in Tanzania.

Mipango Account (Mipango means in Kiswahili plan)

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Mipango Account is a term deposit account mixed with savings functions. It offers either 3, 6, 12, 18 or 24 months of term period and depending on the deposited amount the interest will be between 3% and 8%. Minimum balance is TZS 50k (ca. CHF 30) which is for the majority of clients already quite an investment by knowing that the money will not be available for the chosen term. To better understand the initial amount, I would like to mention that the lowest possible loan amount is TZS 30k which Village Banking clients appreciate a lot. Mipango account can be only operated via Mkwanja account which every client needs to have as well. At the end of the term, the deposit either will be reinvested of paid back.

These two products I am going to work with especially in the weeks to come. Since FINCA has 24 branches in the different regions of Tanzania, I hope to get the chance to visit at least a few of them in the next 2 months.

Karte TZ

Tanzania is an East African country with Dar es Salaam as the biggest city (ca. 4m inhabitants) and a size twice as large as California and more than 40m people. The capitol, though, is Dodoma. Tanzania is one of the most peaceful and stable countries in Africa. On the contrary Tanzania is one of the poorest countries in the world, with a per capita GDP of just $1,400. The economy depends heavily on agriculture, which accounts for 27.1% of the GDP, provides 85% of exports, and employs 80% of the work force. The World Bank, the IMF, and bilateral donors have provided funds to rehabilitate out-of-date economic infrastructure and to alleviate poverty.  For worldwide tourism Tanzania is a very interesting and lovely place. With the Serengeti and Mount Kilimanjaro as two very known nature sights, Tanzania attracts a lot of visitors each year. But there is much more to explore than these two famous places. I will keep you posted on what I will get to see during my stay…

Source: Finca.org, Mapsofworld.com