Christian News from Scotland

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Monday, August 04, 2008

Banking in the Marketplace

A tiny bank in a former butcher shop is serving thousands of people right in the center of Blantyre's marketplace - that is Blantyre, Malawi.

Only four people staff the mini-branch of the Opportunity International Bank of Malawi (OIBM), which opened in March 2007. It is already in high demand: over 3,000 people have already opened savings accounts, some of them from cities as many as 100 kilometers away. It also offers loans and insurance to clients.

Although it is located in one of the poorest countries in the world, the bank averages 18 account openings and 30 transactions per day. 70 percent of its clients are women. They no longer have to make expensive, risky trips to the main branch of the bank in Limbe, because the mini-branch is located right in the area where they live and work.

Almost 100 percent of the bank's loans are repaid on time. Tabia Chibale, who runs a small business making and selling necklaces, plans to pay off her loan before the end of its eight-month term. If she does, she will be able to take out a larger loan and expand her business.
"It's a great bank," she said. "I have 100% [higher] profit now than before."

The mother of three girls, Chibale travels to Zimbabwe twice every month to purchase raw materials for her business.

Mrs. Jabalasa, who buys and sells potatoes, believes her money is safer in the bank than it was when she hid it in her home. She recently opened her very first savings account after learning about the bank from friends.

Malawi is an extremely poor country, with 76 percent of the population living on less than one dollar per day. Almost 14 million people live in Malawi, and tens of thousands of them die of HIV/AIDS every year, according to the CIA. Opportunity International has over 17,000 active loan clients in the country.

Opportunity International strives to reach the world's poorest people through its micro-enterprise development programs.

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