One advantage of traffic jams is that one has all the time to observe fellow road users and people on street. Friday morning is busy on the streets of Dakar: people commuting to work, vendors on the street –the products literally reach the customer –, and cars everywhere.
After 30 minutes I arrived at U-IMCEC Dakar Liberté VI agency. Maguete Ngom, the branch manager, explained the strength of U-IMCEC is that they know their customers. U-IMCEC Dakar Liberté VI agency has 4 small branches. Every branch has its own volunteers that hold positions in the local board or the credit committee. There is also a board at the regional level and another one at the national level.
Ms Coumba Faye is member of the branch’s credit committee. She was a public servant for 20 years, but always wanted to be involved in development work: "during the AGM, I showed interest in taking this position and I was elected by the other members."
February 14: A fishermen’s neighbourhood in Yoff
It took about 30 minutes from the agency to Yoff, outside Dakar where we met Ms Raura Faye who has a business for transporting fish and heads an association of 1,037 people part of one group loan.
Most of the members are fisherman, fish traders, or offer transport services as motor boats or truck to bring the fish to farther markets. It was the first time I heard of such a large group.
The group started with a XOF 1 million loan (€ 1525) and currently receive XOF 17 million (€ 25,916) and Raura splits the loan in the group dedepning n their needs.
She also explained the large group is divided in groups of 10 people for daily repayments. And once a week the whole group repays U-IMCEC.
February 14: Safeguarding local flavours
Les Mamelles Jaboot is an Oikocredit partner producing dairy products, especially yoghurt (with millet), milk powder, and juices produced with local fruits.
This small family business started in 1998 in the kitchen of Mr and Ms Ndiaye and today employs 100 people. Antoine Ndiaye, son of the owner and production manager, showed around the factory and answered questions.
Les Mamelles Jaboot is involved in a nutrition project to provide yoghurt and local cereals to children in Dakar. The pilot project included 6000 children who otherwise would start their school day without any breakfast.
At the end of the tour, it was time to try some yoghurt. Obviously, I went for the favourite flavour of Senegalese families: vanilla.
February 15: Food for thought
During the closing session, all groups presented their findings and brought some points for discussion, such as interest rates, women’s empowerment, as well as the added-value of Oikocredit as social financier.
Governance is one of the challenges in the region. The management team of partners needs additional training to carry on tasks for which these people have not been trained. Also the vulnerability of agricultural businesses due to weather and the difficult access to international and local markets are points of consideration.
As a region, West Africa faces risks in terms of political instability and social unrest. One thing is for sure: Oikocredit neither pulls out of a country when things get difficult nor left a partner alone to its fate. The country team will do its utmost to support the partner in trouble.
The Big Five: February 16
The farewell dinner of the study tour was the framework of the first Award of Oikocredit West Africa and took place in The Big Five, a locally decorated restaurant in the centre of Dakar. While eating, we enjoyed the some music of a kora,a harp-like instrument played by a skilful griot, known as praise singers. U-IMCEC was awarded for its good track record and good governance and PAMECAS for its SPM and Innovation initiative.
February 18: A bientôt!
This morning the last participants left the hotel. The Study Tour 2013 Senegal belongs to the past.
Waiting at the hotel lobby I try to organize my ideas and impressions of this study tour. One of my favourite take-away is to confirm that any Oikocredit financing is not only a due diligence: it is the end of a long process – which can take years as in the case of Les Saveurs du Sud –, time and effort of my colleagues in the field and the start of a true partnership based on respect, trust, and a common social mission.
And the words of Lamine Diassy, first vice-president of Copex-Sud, come back again to my mind: “We trust Oikocredit because Oikocredit took the risk and trusted us.”
The airport shuttle is about to arrive. A bientôt Senegal! I hope to come back.