Dreaming big in Malawi

OFFERING people financial services as simple as a bank account or affordable business loan for the first time can be life-changing.

Take Precious Bambala, a small-time hairdresser based in the village of Limbuli in southern Malawi, where all the money raised in City A.M.’s Christmas charity appeal will be used.

In her remote rural area, banking services that we consider universal are still hard to come by, leaving entrepreneurs like herself dependent on day-to-day cash reserves to fund their businesses.

Precious sells hair products and extensions to boost her profits alongside cutting hair – but until three years ago she could buy only a limited amount of stock with the cash she generated.

That’s when Opportunity International stepped in to help. It has worked in southern Malawi since 2006 and now has seven outlets and a mobile banking van to reach clients.

Opportunity supplied Precious with her first loan of 20,000 Malawian kwacha, equivalent to about £75, to buy more stock for the salon.

Three years later, Precious has repaid that loan and taken out several more to support the business. She has received five loans in total, the most recent of which was 50,000 kwacha (£187).

The effect on her business has been remarkable. Profits have doubled to 10,000 kwacha (£37) per month, enough to allow her to help fund her family’s food and clothes, which she was not able to do in the past.

Her ambitions have grown, too. She now plans to expand her business further, to supply all the local shopkeepers and bring far more of her beauty products into the area.

“I would like to open a wholesale store, and sell goods wholesale to the community,” Precious says.

With Opportunity’s help, she hopes to turn her small enterprise into a valuable business tapping into a growing demand in the area.

The money also means she can harbour bigger dreams for her family. Her daughter is currently in school and as the family’s income grows, Precious can make plans to continue the girl’s education.

“I would like my daughter to become a doctor,” she says.

With a little support to grow her business, she is now much better equipped to help her daughter do so.