Empowering entrepreneurs in Zambia (without electricity)
By Ella van Kranenburg
As one of the supervisory board members of Lendahand, I wanted to witness where crowd invested money ends up. That’s why I joined Lendahand’s Peter Heijen and Thomas Plaatsman together with a few investors on a short, intense and educational field trip to Zambia. Rest assured, both the investors and I bought our own tickets.
During our trip, we visited Agora Microfinance Zambia (AMZ), two direct investees (Vitalite and Emerging Cooking Solutions) and, most importantly, various end customers. Agnes, pictured left, is one of them. She borrowed money from AMZ to support her business. When Agnes’ husband passed away and her child got into an accident and required home care, she started a small shop across her house. Her specialty? Homemade pies and pastries.
“Selling stuff, helping customers and listening to the radio”
That’s what Agnes likes about running her own business. At the same time, the business can be tough. The competition is stiff and the country itself can be described as challenging as well. Because Zambia has been struggling with electricity shortages after a drought curbed hydropower output, the country has electrical power cuts. Every day, hour after hour. It’s impossible to bake pies on a regular basis. Also, selling lukewarm drinks are less profitable than a cold coke.
One Agnes, resembling many Agneses
Agnes’ resilience, good humor, and strength are humbling, at least to me. There are many ‘Agneses’ in this world, who just need a little help to push their business in the right direction. The AMZ loan enables Agnes to keep her business going, even when it’s challenging at times. Also, a lower interest rate wouldn’t hurt, according to this businesswoman, who’s not afraid to express her opinion in the presence of AMZ’s agents. AMZ actively looks into possibilities to decrease interest rates on their loans. Obviously, I’m very supportive of such development and I will certainly monitor this in the future.
When Zambia empowers Zambians
In the meantime, I hope the Zambian government finds solutions to the power outage problems, enabling Agnes to bake more pies, making the business thrive and… it’s the owner too.