Central African Republic: Entrepreneurs build businesses through micro-credits
With conflict raging once again in the small, beleaguered Central African Republic, protecting the businesses, savings and livelihoods of the poorest and most vulnerable communities has become one of many priorities.
A micro-finance programme, implemented by UNDP and is partners, was designed to help revive the local economy. A new savings bank, called "Gogoro" allowed participants to accumulate and secure their savings.
"If you borrow wisely and respect the deadline for your programme, you'll have no problem paying the money back," says Severin Saragoune, 40, who took out a loan of 100,000 CFA (approximately US$ 200). Since investing the money in a small business, he has become self-sufficient. "Today, I no longer need credit, because I have accumulated capital," he says.
In the Central African Republic, one of the least developed countries in Africa where more than 50 percent of the population is unable to meet its basic food needs, the micro-credit scheme saved many from hunger and deprivation.
More than 49,000 people among vulnerable populations, women and low-income communities, have received credit. Pilot projects in the northwestern area of the country have mobilized as much as 10 million CFA (roughly US$ 21,000) for loans, which boast a more than 90 percent repayment rate.
In 2011, women accounted for about a third of the beneficiaries of basic financial services such as savings, loans or transfer money. One particular fund, called "Ndoye", served as an emergency fund and provided non-repayable financial assistance to women for incidents such as illness, childbirth or hospitalization.
As a further project, leaders of the International Centre of credit unions (ICMC) introduced a magnetic card for all transactions.
To update the entire system, UNDP and the United Nations Capital Development Fund (UNCDF) funded the purchase of the necessary computer equipment for a total of more than 90 million CFA (approximately US$ 18,600). By January 2013, more than 17,000 customers had received magnetic cards.