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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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!