With very little access to capital, how can an entrepreneurial woman in rural Senegal start or grow her business? For the last 12 years, part of our efforts are directed toward economic assistance, allowing those in West Africa a chance to have access to capital in the form of microloans.
These tiny cash loans, averaging $60, are used by the recipient to start a small business or otherwise actively pursue the opportunity to turn this small amount into something larger. They are almost always fully repaid, with a paid back rate of around 95%.
We recently caught up with a few of these women in the town of Podor, in the north of Senegal. We sat with them and learned more about what they do and hear their success stories.
Dibor Faye used the loan she received to make ice cream. It is not the conventional kind like we think of, but a mixture of fruit from the Baobab tree (called Monkey Bread), combined with water and sugar and then frozen. It's quite delicious and fairly simple to make. While knowing there would be a strong demand for it, she had no money or resource of any kind to buy the ingredients, including sugar and little plastic bags used to make single servings to sell. Her loan was for $50, part of which she also used to rent a small freezer space from a nearby shop.
Over the next few months, she developed a clientele. It is very hot and dry in Podor, so people liked being able to buy a small portion of this "ice cream" for a few pennies. She eventually turned her $50 loan into $290, for a profit (after she repaid the loan) of $240!
Awa Diop used her loan to buy and raise a sheep, which gave birth to a lamb. She fed them both with special feed to get them ready for the annual "feast" or meal celebration, not unlike our Thanksgiving. She sold them both for a tidy profit of over $200.
In talking about what she had planned for her new income, she motioned toward a young child, who was handicapped. She was able to buy medicine and clothes (the child cannot walk and wears out clothing by crawling around on hands and knees). She took the girl to a doctor and paid her medical bills. It was a life-changing intervention that cost very little. Further, Awa is very proud that she was able to earn this money through her own hard work and take care of her family.
Khadidiatou Ndiaye used her $45 loan money to buy seed to grow rice. She planted on her local small farm patch where she grew and cared for the rice, and eventually harvested thirty 50 lb bags of rice. She borrowed a local donkey cart to transport the rice to her house.
She sold all the rice one bag at a time from her home, as local people came to buy from her. Because the rice was locally grown and very good, she sold out (she kept some seed for next year). She made over $300 - more money than she has ever made!
She was very pleased with results and thanked Andando for the help. Now that her loan is paid back, someone else in the community can borrow the money as the loans revolve in order to give everyone a chance.
She concluded her remarks by saying: "We want to escape from Poverty. We will work hard. Our whole community will benefit".
These encouraging stories illustrate a key principle of how Andando is operated - a little bit of money goes a long way. You don't have to spend vast amounts of money to make a big difference, indeed the opposite is often true. And we don't have a lot of overhead, in fact very little. We like to keep things efficient and productive.
It doesn't take a lot of money to change someone's life.