I’ve always maintained that what we do here at Opportunity International combines the skills of the social worker with the tools of the banker. For some that might seem something of an unholy alliance, but when it comes to lending – the core of our service – it’s a duality that works.
Much of our lending is through trust groups; collectives of people, usually women, who get together and act as co-guarantors. Before we lend them anything, we spend a few weeks talking to them about the deal and how it works. More importantly, we listen to them and let them share their visions for both their businesses and families.
The repayment rate – 96 per cent – says it all. What’s more, 70 per cent of these borrowers come back again and take out a second loan. Small injections of working capital, often as loans as small as £50, can transform the profitability of businesses in countries like Malawi.