The introductory meeting is the official kick-off of the study tour. After a round of introductions, Mariam, Sambou, and Aïda gave an overview of the region and country regarding the general situation, Oikocredit operations and social performance activities.
February 10: Dal Alene Ak Jam (Welcome in Wolof)
In spite of its enormous potential for growth, West Africa is the most challenging region for Oikocredit because it is vulnerability for internal unrest. Oikocredit West Africa was established in 1993 and started financing partners a year later. In the last years, Mali and Ivory Coast have faced political turmoil and civil wars.
Senegal is a more stable country. Oikocredit Senegal started operating in 2004 and to date it has invested almost € 22 million and is recognized as the major MIV in the country. Oikocredit’s financing usually open doors to partners because other MIVs are willing to consider financing an institution when Oikocredit has already financed it.
The meeting took longer than originally planned, but it was worth every minute spent.
With new questions and expectations, I went to pack my suitcase. Tomorrow every small group will divide for the field trips. The Study Tour has started!
February 11: Early flight to Casamance
At 5am, I headed to Dakar airport to take the plane to Ziguinchor in Casamance region. As we approached Ziguinchor, I could see the delta from the window. Casamance is indeed the green region of Senegal. In spite of this, it also comprises the largest % of people living in poverty of the country.
February 11: Challenges of microfinance
The trip to the U-IMCEC branch agency in Ziguinchor was relatively short, but allowed me to see a lively city with many micro businesses and markets along the road.
U-IMCEC is a cooperative-based MFI. In the office, I met Nalamine Gomes, branch manager, and Ms Khady Camara, president of the board of the regional branch.
Mr Gomes explained the difficulties they faced to be able to reach out to more entrepreneurs in the rural areas: distance and the limited capital available. They try to address the problem by opening more branches in the Casamance.
Actually, U-IMCEC has 8 branches in 4 regions of Casamance: Ziguinchor, Kolda, Sédhiou, and Tambacounda, but these are not enough to satisfy the enormous demand for microfinance.