Sunday, January 31, 2010

The conversation we probably should have...

The following is a conversation we probably should have............  

You:  Why are you going to Malawi?  
Me:    I'm going to Malawi to offer support, technical advice and assistance to local SACCOs by working with their boards, general managers, staff and members.

You:  Woah!  What a mouthful...  Who are you going with?  
Me:   Same gang as last year!  These guys!

Team Malawi:  2009 - 2010
Outside of FINCOOP - Malawi's Largest SACCO
Brad Hopfauf (VP of Branch Services of Wainwright Credit Union) 
Bruce Anderson (General Manager of Lafleche Credit Union Ltd) 
Nicki Anderton (Credential)  
Dennis Matthies (General Manager of Lowe Farm Credit Union Ltd)  
Paul Innes (Administration Manager of OMISTA Credit Union) 
Robert Christiansen (Branch Manager - Servus Credit Union)

You:  Who's that bearded, funny-looking guy in the front row?  
Me:   Err...  that's me...  
You:  Awkward...  Uhh...  What's a SACCO anyway?

Me:   SACCO stands for Savings and Credit Cooperative Organization. It is a form of cooperative organization that provides financial services to its members. It is a democratic, member driven, self-help cooperative owned, governed and managed by its members.” 

Members of the SACCO agree to save their money together at the SACCO and make loans to each other at reasonable rates of interest. The banks in Malawi have a reputation for charging exorbitant interest rates and are infamous for hidden service charges and fees. As such, the middle and poor classes in Malawi look to SACCOs for assistance with their financing and personal banking needs.  

You:  What purpose do SACCOs serve?
Me:    Well... SACCO(s):
- allow savings to be mobilized locally and returned to members in the form of loans. The loan money stays and works within the membership and the community.  They mobilize significant volumes of personal savings and channel them into small loans for productive and provident purposes at the community level.
- interest rates on both savings and loans are generally better than rates given by banks. (partially due to lower overhead costs than banks) 
- encourage members to save, which is essential for economic empowerment 
- educate their members in financial matters by teaching prudent handling of money, budgeting tips and prudent financial management techniques. 
- pay dividends on shares to their members once the SACCO is established and profitable. Members therefore take pride in owning their own SACCO.

Dwangwa Sugar Cane Estate

You:  Cool!  
Me:   Cool!  

Robert Christiansen

Friday, January 29, 2010

Fear and Loathing... in Lethbridge!

February 17th is quickly approaching and I'm starting to get things in order for my upcoming trip to Malawi.

This week's activities:  Drugs!
1.  Dukoral
2.  Malarone
3.  Twinrix
4.  Etc.

While these immunizations and medications won't likely send me into a Hunter. S. Thompson-esk frenzy, they  will keep me healthy!  (and prevent me from catching any of these wide variety of diseases.)

I am as baffled this year as I was last year with the cost associated with these drugs...  For example, 35 Malarone pills cost $195.32 CDN.  I have to take one pill each day I am in Malawi.  As such, it will cost me $5.58 CDN/day to stay malaria-free.  The current GDP per capita in Malawi is $352.37 USD; that is, the average Malawian makes less than $1USD/day.  I still find it hard to believe that I will be spending significantly more money to stay malaria-free each day than the average Malawian will make in a day.  Unbelievable...

That's all for now!  Thanks for reading!!!

Robert Christiansen

PS:  By the way...  I heard from my friend Brad Hopfauf (Wainwright Credit Union) today!  He has created a blog to capture his 2010 trip to Malawi as well!  Check it out Banking In Malawi

See you soon Brad!