Welcome to CCA’s international development blog page devoted to the Uganda/Malawi Coaching program. Enjoy the sights and sounds, the people and places as experienced by 3 credit union volunteers on the frontline of development.

Monday, March 8, 2010

Charlie's Photos - Journey to Queen Eizabeth National Park


Homeward Bound

Brad - Last Day at Fincoop

Today is our last day at Fincoop, we put the finishing touches on our Board Report and all there is to do today is retrieve some policies that I had emailed to me, thanks for your help Connie and Amy. Bruce and I got the report printed off and we gave a copy to Blessings I also gave him the policies that were emailed. Bruce and I went back to the hotel where we changed and decided to brave the markets one more time; we were a little more savvy this trip since we have a sense of the cost of the items. It takes time to get the price you want to pay you must be patient, stay in a good mood, smile and be prepared to walk if you don't get your price. One of the main things you need to be able to say a lot is no thanks, this has been essential since our route from the hotel to Fincoop takes us right through the heart of most of the street vendors and one of the markets.

Paul and Robert returned to Lilongwe around noon and we met them to catch up, they had some interesting experiences. We decided to go down to Fincoop early since Bruce wanted to visit with Tocho who was in the women's mentoring program and was stationed at Bruce's Credit Union.

The meeting with the Board went well, they asked questions and we had a good discussion on a number of issues. At the end of the meeting we made arrangements to meet the Board and Management for supper at 6:30 pm. The evening was a lot of fun, there was good food, good conversation and a lot of laughs.

On Saturday we had a debriefing meeting with the MUSSCO management which went well. They are a forward thinking group that is working hard to see the SACCO system survive and thrive.

We are meeting with the MUSSCO staff tonight for a farewell supper. I will be sorry to leave Malawi so soon, I miss Canada but I could stay here for another couple of weeks. This year has been real enjoyable.

Robert - Last Day in Malawi

Last night, Sylvester, Dickson, Fumbani (sp?) and Kingsley took us out for dinner at a golf course near our hotel. We had chicken gizzards for a starter and I had what will likely be my last Malawian Chambo meal for a while. The whole MUSCCO executive is an awesome bunch of guys!
Well… Today has finally come. I can't believe today is my last day in the "Warm Heart of Africa". I think I'm going to go walking around, take some photos and take in the last of the 25C weather.

Our almost-2-days-worth-of-flights start at 1:15pm this afternoon.
Blog ya in Toronto!

Sunday, March 7, 2010

Robert: Bus trip to Lilongwe

Paul and I made it back to Lilongwe. We took an AXA Coach from Blantyre to Lilongwe, and the bus ride took about 4.5 hours. The distance between Lilongwe and Blantyre can't be greater than 350Km, but because of the road conditions (POT HOLES!!!) and road side police and immigration stops, it takes a very long time to travel on the highways. At the one immigration stop we encountered, two officers came onto the bus and demanded to see the passports of all foreign visitors. We showed our passports and I explained we were down here volunteering with MUSCCO and visiting SACCOs. I was asked to provide some piece of documentation I had never heard of, and got a little concerned… The officer told me to get the document in Lilongwe. A girl sitting behind us was questioning the officer's decision to see passport's for foreigners. I have to say, it is pretty odd to have to produce a passport to ride on a bus… The only thing I can think of is that the country may have an issue with immigration (ie: illegal immigrants).

We met up with Bruce, Brad, Dennis and Nicky at the hotel restaurant last night and shared stories with each other. It was nice to see everyone again and it sounded like everyone had a good time once again this year.

We're meeting with MUSCCO this morning to review our findings, have the afternoon off and going out for our final dinner with MUSCCO later this evening! It's hard to believe my time in Malawi has almost come to an end…


Unity, Discipline, Obedience

Brad: Day 3 at Fincoop

Today (Thursday) was a productive day for us at the SACCO we finished our report for the Board, we are meeting with them tomorrow (Friday) and then we will join them for supper. The rest of our group Paul, Bobby, Dennis and Niki should all show up tomorrow and it will be good to swap stories with them. Any way back to Fincoop, we worked for part of the morning and then Blessings Kam'mambala the Finance and Administration Manager came in to where we were working and let us know it was time to go visit their Market Branch. We drove to the Branch and it is almost right in the middle of the market, we met the Branch Manager Mavis who has been with Fincoop since its inception. After visiting the Branch Blessings then took us on a driving tour of Lilongwe which was great to see. We have only really just seen the road from the airport to the hotel because the road coming in from Mzuzu is the same road as the airport road. We toured the Capital City Area, the Government buildings, the place where the first president Banda was buried. Malawi has made a shrine for Banda and it is quite impressive.

The people of Malawi are taught the four principals of being Malawian they are Unity; Discipline; Obedience and Loyalty. The words are written on the four cornerstones around the shrine. Those are good principles to live by and it puts how we have been treated by our Malawian friends, however I don't think the obedience principle would go over to well in Canada. We like to criticize our government way too much. From there Blessings took us to the Lilongwe Wildlife Centre where we saw a Lioness, some crocodiles a leopard and other animals.

After lunch we finished up our report and I got a preview of the new banking system from the vendor. It looks like it will fit their needs and has some good features they can add in the future. I am excited for Fincoop because once it is up and running it will solve a lot of the issues they have.

It started to rain again just before supper and I say again because last night it came down so hard I am glad we are staying on the second floor. The rain reminded me of last year in Karonga, I don't know if the soil is that sandy or they have a great drainage system but there was no water lying around this morning.

Got to go and put the finishing touches on our report for the Board catch you soon.

Wednesday, March 3, 2010

The Three Bloggers - Week 2

Charlie - Day # (I don't remember - lost track)

We just completed another day - I think its been a couple days since I last posted - yesterday we were at Kashongi SACCO for one day then today we were at SACCO #4 called the Kiragama Farmers SACCO - too tired to provide much in the way of details so I’m going to take the easy (picture) way out. We check out in the morning - do another half day at Kiragama - and then take off for Queen Elizabeth National Park (Google that) for a 2 day Team R and R (all 6 members of Team U will be there). I’m fairly certain there will be no internet access there so next time I post will likely be Saturday morning when we get back to Kampala.  Here’s a few pictures from our Kashongi visit. Bye for now.

Brad - Fincoop Day 2

This morning at Fincoop we met with Moses Nyamwera their IT Manager. Bruce and I already knew Moses from our time in Karonga last year where he was working he had just moved to Lilongwe in December. We kidded him that he had heard that Bruce and I were coming back to Malawi to work with Fincoop and he had to get a job with Fincoop because he missed us. Actually his wife is a nurse working at one of the government hospitals and he followed her to Lilongwe.  We worked with Moses for part of the morning; since he is busy with his banking system conversion he didn't have a lot of time. We then met with the Internal Auditor Andrew Tembo who is new to the position but is very knowledgeable in the audit field.

After lunch we had a little time to kill so we went back to the hotel for a few minutes and then ventured out to the store so Bruce could support the Malawi tobacco growers. I also took the opportunity to exchange some dollars to Kwacha man do you feel rich when you get MK 17,000 in bills. On the way back to Fincoop Joseph Banana tried to sell Bruce a painting or two, yes his name was Joseph Banana and he wore a yellow vest.  With tomorrow being a holiday we will have to find something blog worthy to do, stay tuned.

Robert - Day 2 at MBC SACCO

Paul and I spent our second day with Abigail and her team at the MBC SACCO. I've included some photos with this entry so you can see what the branch looks like (both inside and out). The branch shares the premises with two other organizations: The MUSCCO Regional Office and FINCOOP's Blantyre branch.  The branch has a cashier station, an area where the accountant works, Abigail's office (which houses the entrance to the cash vault) and a large board room that doubles as a back office room. The branch is a decent size, relatively speaking, but the layout of the branch is a little awkward. Paul and I worked our way through a mountain of documentation today (financial statements, policies, procedures, meeting minutes, etc.) to learn more about how MBC SACCO operates and to try to identify some areas where we could make recommendations to assist them.

While there are some similarities between Canadian Credit Unions and Malawian SACCOs, there are some major differences! I think the biggest thing we, as coaches, need to be cognizant of is that the business rules that we follow in Canada are drastically different than the rules in Malawi. Paul and I had to learn how these SACCOs provide banking services to their members before we could make recommendations. I think I have a pretty firm grasp of how business is done now, and I hope that our recommendations to the MBC SACCO Management and Board are well received. 

In Malawi, the SACCO movement started off has a niche-banking system, with a very specific target market – the poor. Chartered Banks were not interested in banking the lower income class of society because it is not a very profitable sector and the risk associated with this sector was deemed excessive. The SACCO target market has changed to some extent and some SACCOs are trying to break this stigma of being the "Banker to the Poor" and operate as a real alternative to the Chartered Banks. The SACCO movement within Malawi truly is alive and well, and it is encouraging to see and hear about growth in SACCOs across the country.

Tuesday, March 2, 2010

Malawi - More SACCO's and rain

Brad - First Day with FINCOOP

After breakfast we walked down to Fincoop to start our day. We met with the General Manager Anthony Ngwira who has been with Fincoop almost since it started in 2004. He started as Manger under a contract from MUSCCO in 2006 and was hired full time as Manager in 2009. The Sacco has grown from 323 members as of December 2004 to 29,315 members as of December 2009. Their assets have grown from MK 7,189,000 in 2004 to MK 770,291,000, that is rapid growth and it has propelled them to the status of the largest SACCO in Malawi. 

Fincoop has a good mix of members with 17,723 being male, 10,180 being female and 1,412 being groups or businesses. They have made an effort to attract women members over the last two years and their efforts have paid off since the female members have grown from 3,531 in 2007 to 10,180 December 2009. They have adopted an innovative approach as they now have 4 mobile banking units that travel to the rural areas of the country to provide loan and deposit services. The units are crew cab trucks with secure caps on the truck bed; there is also a safe in the cap for the money. The truck travels with a Police escort and they have an arrangement with one of the banks to store the money overnight if they are staying out in the country. With this means of service they are reaching 95 mobile branch centres over and above their four branches.

Brad - Now on to Lilongwe

We started out for Lilongwe at 9:30 am after a great evening in Mzuzu, I was happy we were able to visit the city again it brought back good memories from last year.  We made it to Lilongwe around 1:30 pm and after we checked in (I got the same room as I had last week) we then took Davison out for a farewell lunch at Mama Mia after Lunch we was going back to Mzuzu that day. I will not forget the hospitality that Davison has shown us he is a remarkable individual. 

Bruce and I decided to walk to the golf course to have a look, but we only got half way and the skies opened up. We made it under an awning to wait it out, however after 20 minutes it was not letting up .  was tired so I went right to bed but at 3:30 am was awaken by a big storm. The wind was so strong coming off the lake it was blowing the rain right into my room; it was coming through the screen as a fine mist. The wind lasted twenty minutes then went away just as quick as it came, but while it was blowing I thought it was going to blow the room over. When it was done I was treated to a great lightning show over the lake, you gotta love the rainy season in Malawi.

Monday, March 1, 2010

Charlie - A Visit to the EBO SACCO

As I write this blog its early Monday morning March 1….electricity at the hotel has been off more than on this weekend. Here’s a few pics from the last 3 days (including our second SACCO - EBO SACCO. A very well run operation. Bye for now. Charlie.
Brad - Final DWASCO SACCO Meeting

Our time in Dwangwa has been great but with all the rain and the road conditions Davison could not take us to some of the places he wanted us to visit so we spent all our time at the Plantation. Oh well when it is the rainy season I guess you should expect a little rain. However we did get to visit the Ethanol Plant today and received a tour with a full explanation of their processes. It was a very interesting tour and the reason the Ethanol Plant is in Dwangwa is because of the Sugar Factory since they use the Sugar Factory's waste mash for their process.

We stopped at the Standard Bank so Bruce could cash in some travelers cheques, while waiting for him (it took 45 minutes) Davison introduced me to the Chairman of the Supervisory Committee for the SACCO. Davison and I also went into the FMB Bank they wanted me to open an account and they were going to pay six percent on the savings account, that is less than the ten percent the SACCO pays.

On Friday February 26th we had our final meeting with the Board of Directors of DWASCO Employees SACCO. We started off the meeting with an opening prayer which is one of their traditions. Bruce and I gave our presentation with Bruce starting off reviewing the progress from last year and me reviewing the new issues that have come up at the SACCO. The SACCO is well run but they have their challenges especially with liquidity, they have a large loan demand and limited ways to raise deposits to fund them. After we completed the presentation we answered questions and discussed issues with the Board Members.  We enjoyed an evening of fellowship with the management and board of the SACCO. They were great hosts and we had lively conversations throughout the evening.

Robert - First Day at MBC SACCO

We spent our first day at the MBC (Malawian Broadcasting Corporation) SACCO today. We were greeted by Abigail – the MBC SACCO General Manager.  Unlike the Sunbird SACCO, the MBC SACCO is a common (or open) bond SACCO, meaning that it welcomes more than just members from a single institution. 

Abigail had participated in the CCA Women's Mentorship Program, which gave her an opportunity to visit Canada. She stayed in Manning, Alberta with her host at Horizon Credit Union. She also got to travel to Peace River. I told her that I felt sorry for her, having to travel hours upon hours to get to Northern Alberta! Haha! She did have to travel a very long distance to get there (Blantyre to Lilongwe to London to Ottawa to Calgary to Edmonton to Manning = MANY HOURS!!!) but she said it was worth it! She had a great time and really enjoyed the snow.
Henock (the Sunbird SACCO manager) picked us up this morning (Saturday) and we travelled to see the tea plantations near Tholyo (prounounced "cho-roh"). It was incredible to see the vast tea orchards. I took some photos, but the battery in my camera died half way through the trip, so I missed out on some.