Friday, 21 February 2014

Video updates from Togo part three: “A small loan is like oil in an engine; it allows people to move forward"

Finally, part three of Tracey's video updates from her April 2013 trip to Togo is here! Here are also parts one and two for some context.

To round off my blog/video updates from Togo, I wanted to share with you some lasting impressions from the trip.

The passion and commitment of the WAGES staff

Many of the office staff began their careers as Loan Officers, including the General Manager, Ramanou Nassirou who, when talking about the entrepreneurs said most of them know how to run their business, we just provide them with a small loan to get them started - a small and affordable loan is like oil in a car engine; it allows people to move forward"

I have already written about how WAGES supported clients who lost everything in the massive fires which swept through the great markets of Lomé and Kara last year and this demonstrates further the commitment that WAGES have to improving the lives of their clients. 

The importance of a good loan officer
 A good loan officer will take time out of their incredibly busy work schedules to support entrepreneurs beyond simply disbursing loans and collecting repayments. This makes a huge impact on the lives and successes of the people they serve and their businesses  and I saw it time and time again with the WAGES' staff.

Yaya’s story: Yaya was one of the very first entrepreneurs to receive funding from Lendwithcare back in 2010.  Yaya told me there has been a big difference between before the loans and now.  He is able to send his children to school, they eat three meals a day and his business has ensured the health of his family. Recently one of his children was sick but he was able to afford to pay the hospital fees – something he’s sure he wouldn’t have been able to do before.

What access to finance really means
Access to financial services such as loans and savings accounts are absolutely vital to people who would otherwise never be able to move their business beyond the most basic hand to mouth existence. 

Assiahame’s story: I met Assiahame at her small hairdressing salon in a side street of Atakpamé.  She told me that her salon alone didn’t have enough regular customers, so her loan enabled her to diversify into selling jewellery, bags as well as hair pieces. Before finding out about WAGES she had previously used a money-lender who charged her 50% interest on her loan and used to hassle her for the repayments.

And that like any small business, there are many challenges and although access to credit helps lessen the burden, it is not always enough ...

The need to diversify when things get tough
William’s story: I had met William a year ago and was struck by how important he is to his village, near the town of Atakpamé.  Not only is William a fisherman employing twelve people in the village, he is also the local Pastor.  This year when I met William he was starting to diversify his income sources as it is becoming harder and harder to make a living from fishing.  He told me that fishing was only good for three months of the year and it was becoming increasingly difficult to make that income last.  As is typical of men like William, rather than just accepting the situation he was thinking of other ways in which he could earn a living.  He had just started a very small business, selling musical instruments and has now taken a loan so he can grow this business.

I hope you have enjoyed this small window into the lives of some of the entrepreneurs featured on  I really enjoyed meeting them and hearing their stories.

Finally, I would like to thank everyone who made my time in Togo so enjoyable and rewarding, especially Felix Kilinglo and the Loan Officers from the Atakpamé branch; Forgive, Lolonyo, Sylvain, Success, Dodji, Emmanuel and Esso and Mensah Dakevi, the WAGES lendwithcare officer and Sambieni Yarikoi who accompanied me for all my time in Togo and were the perfect example of the warmth and hospitality of Togolese people.

Tracey Horner, Head of Lendwithcare

No comments:

Post a Comment