Togo in West Africa is one of the poorest countries in the world. Here the true pillar of the family, the women, are particularly affected by the difficulties of life: work in the fields, chores of collecting water, education of children. They have business ideas and dreams, but not enough knowledge of how to start and run a small-scale business. They also lack access to traditional bank loans as they do not have sufficient assets to be solvent.
The Rotary Club of Stockholm International, together with some other Rotary Clubs in Stockholm, executed a fundraising project in 2017-2018 to raise money to support a local program run by collaborating NGO’s S.E.VIE and Action10. Rotary’s contribution has been SEK=66.000 and Action10’s SEK=43.000 which is roughly 2/3 of the final goal to build a fund of 10 Million FCFA (West African Franc). This sum will make the program available for 200 women entrepreneurs simultaneously and secure the sustainability of the program.
After dividing the women into smaller groups, the program offers them training and education in basic business planning, negotiating, pricing and accounting. Their businesses can be anything from producing and selling food, drinks and clothing to cutting people’s hair. Small loans (“Action Credits”) are available with a weekly repayment schedule that is spread over six months. These “Action Credits” will help the women to set up and see their businesses through the startup period. The loans are individual, but the repayment responsibility lies with the small group the women belong to. If, for any reason, a woman cannot repay her weekly amount – the other women in her group will do it on her behalf. This creates a strong commitment & accountability and secures the repayment of the credits.
When the program is fully running, with 200 women in the program, the interest (10%) charged for the loans will cover the salaries for the S.E.VIE staff facilitating the program. The yearly plan for the program includes a financial coach and the hiring of an independent program auditor.
The status now (February 2019) is that S.E.VIE and Action10 are finalizing the plans to launch this program. We intend to provide updates on the project and program on this blog as it proceeds.