MicroLoan opens in Zimbabwe
After many years of fighting red tape, MicroLoan finally opened its first office in Zimbabwe last year. The opening of this new office couldn’t have happened at a more momentous time in the history of the former ‘bread bowl of Africa’. In November 2017 President Robert Mugabe finally stood down after 37 years, and was replaced by his deputy Emerson Mnangagwa. Although Mnangagwa had a long association with Mugabe, he does seem to be saying the right things to reposition the country from being factionally based and isolationist country, to a more open and inclusive society. Since his swearing-in in November 2017:
- He has granted white farmers 99 year leases, which is in stark contrast to the land reforms of the early 2000s which saw many successful commercial farmers forcibly removed from their lands. Their farms were gifted to government ministers and supporters, who due to lack of experience or interest were unable to run these farms at anything like they were run before. This led to severely reduced production and high unemployment.
- In January this year, whilst at the World Economic Forum in Davos, Mnangagwa told the international community that Zimbabwe was now “open for business”, which should encourage mineral explorers and other commercial businesses to return
- Mnangagwe is keen to hold fair and open elections this year so that the people can choose a new leadership, and says he would accept the result even if the people voted for someone else.
Time will tell whether things will actually improve for the average Zimbabwean, but there definitely appears to be genuine optimism in Zimbabwe from both the black majority and the white minority, which has been missing for many years. One thing is for sure, and that is Zimababwe is not starting from a great spot. On any number of measures, the country lacks much of Africa let alone the rest of the world. For example:
- Poverty is put at over 70% of the population and based on the UN Human Development Index Zimbabwe in 2015 is 154th out of 188 countries reviewed (whilst Australia is 2nd best in the world).
- Life expectancy is just 59 years compared to Australia’s 82 years, and GDP per Capita is only US2,300 (201st in World) versus Australia’s US49,900 (28th in the World).
- Basic services are in disarray, as is the currency, which was dropped in 2009 due to hyperinflation.
Zimbabwe is a land locked country in sub-Saharan Africa that is approximately half the size of NSW, but has roughly double the population of this state at 16mn.
Given the current state of the economy, and total lack of finance available to the general population, the MicroLoan concept offers enterprising and motivated women funds to set up their own micro businesses.
Importantly, MicroLoan doesn’t just offer small security-free business loans – it provides all important business training and ongoing mentoring to its clients.
One of the things we are proud of, is the fact we don’t actually “give” anything away – we simply act as a banker to the poor and business mentors to our clients.
As our clients have to make the real effort to set up and work their businesses, they are proud of what they achieve knowing that it wasn’t just a free gift from a well-meaning foreigner, but assistance from a partner who believed they could make things work for their benefit.
We here in Australia are keen to provide MicroLoan Zimbabwe with enough money by 30 June 2018, to allow them to fund as many as 200 women with the capital to set up their own micro businesses.
As most loans are around the US$130 mark, 200 loans equal US$26,000 or about A$33,000 (at today’s exchange rate).
If you want to make a difference in Zimbabwe, in the same way MicroLoan has been able to do in Malawi and Zambia for many years, please Donate here.
And remember, your gift is completely tax deductible.
Hopefully we will be part of a real change in Zimbabwe, and maybe one day it will return to being the ‘bread basket’ of Africa.
CEO Microloan Foundation