Client Assessment in Zambia

Microfinance Assignment 2012 of Yvonne Suter


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Warm Welcome at the FINCA Zambia Headquarter

FINCA’s Zambia headquarter is well-located in Lusaka’s city centre. It is a two-storeyed building with the open for clients Loan Office on the ground level and the Accounting, Process & Project Experts, HR and Marketing offices on the upper level. The headquarter employs about 30 people, with nearly 300 employees across all eight Zambia branches. With around 28’000 clients, FINCA is one of the biggest players in microfinance in Zambia. As regards products, FINCA Zambia focuses on business loans, small group loans and village banking. They plan to launch even saving products and to further expand to other rural areas opening up more branches.

Everybody is supposed to be in office by 8am, whereas after 5pm it is getting noticeably calmer in the office. For lunch most bring their own food and stay in office, but you can always order some rice or the typically Zambian dish “N’shima” – a kind of maize porridge. As a European novice it is rather challenging to eat N’shima properly as I am not very experienced to eat with my hands. Apparently, some of my colleagues at work seem to be quite addicted to N’shima as they eat it daily for lunch and at times for dinner as well. Until now, I am not yet acclimatised enough to completely withstand the temptations of Asian food which you can get everywhere in town.

Headquarter of FINCA in ZambiaMarketing Team at FINCA

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My welcome by the FINCA team has been very warm and cordial. My new colleagues at work are all extremely helpful and motivated to do good business. In particular, I am going to work closely with Social Performer Officer Priscilla, Credit Manager Jackson, and Credit Assistant Crispin (see picture above). Humphrey, Ignatius, and Andrew, all three IT experts (see picture below left) as well as the Operations team (see picture below right) will be key-stakeholders in the project. The SPO as well as the Credit Managers are reporting to COO Mikhail, one of my main contact persons in the project (who, by the way, is very keen on practicing with the new Swiss army knife I gave him as a present from Switzerland).

IT Team at FINCAOperations Team at FINCA

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Apart from resolving the ever-unavoidable IT malfunctions, I am currently trying to better understand the business on the ground and to clarify the scope of the project. Next week, I am already going to join some of the Loan Officers in the field, which means some travelling in and out of Lusaka. I am happy to keep you posted about those experiences and impressions…

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Arrival at Lusaka – Zambia’s Booming Capital City

After a 15-hours flight from Switzerland via South Africa to Zambia I safely arrived in Lusaka – yet quite tired and without any luggage. Not without confusion, the immigration finally worked out well because my colleagues from FINCA seem to maintain good relationships with the airport staff. Three hours later, I was able to leave the airport for downtown Lusaka. I got a warm welcome from the local FINCA team – Priscilla, Josephine, and our driver Joseph – who spent their Sunday on my behalf. Many thanks!

The first day in Lusaka was very relaxing – apart from an early wake-up at 6am when my luggage was delivered. It was Farmers’ Day, a public holiday in Zambia with lots of festivities all around the city. I took the chance to meet some colleagues I was referred to by friends and to have a look at suitable accommodations for the next three months. It seems quite challenging to find an accommodation with all mod cons at affordable rates. But I am very confident that I will find a nice stay for the weeks to come.

My first impression is that Lusaka is a very peaceful city – though its population of about 1.7 million – with very friendly and always smiling inhabitants. August temperatures are moderate as Lusaka is located on the central plateau at an elevation of about 1,300 metres. In weeks and months to come, the city will gradually get warmer and dustier. My first experiences make me eager to get to know better the country, its people and its culture.

I will keep you soon posted with my first experiences at work…


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Only a few days to go before leaving for Zambia

Preparations for my assignment keep me busy as it is only a few days to go before leaving Switzerland for Zambia.

Work days hardly end as I want to ensure a proper hand-over to my team members. I am very grateful that they are ready to take over some extra work load to compensate for my absence. Thank you, Daniela and Matthias!

Laura, Head Microfinance, and Daniela and Matthias from my TeamMy Family at home, celebrating the Swiss National Day

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On August 1st, Switzerland’s National Day, I took the opportunity to say goodbye to my family and friends. First, as a member of the provincial parliament I attended the official ceremony of my home town Rapperswil-Jona. In the evening, I enjoyed a relaxing barbecue with my family in the backyard of my flat.

Now, I am looking forward to getting my luggage ready and taking off for Johannesburg and Lusaka…