While getting a loan in the U.S. can be a challenge, in rural Malawi just finding access to credit is a downright feat. And when the rare bank loan is approved, it’s shackled to assessment fees and sky-high interest rates often ranging as high as 50 percent.
To address this problem, PIH’s partner organization in Malawi, Abwenzi Pa Za Umoyo recently launched a new pilot program to help local staff access bank loans. These loans will help these community members invest in projects that will help their families improve their social and economic situations.
APZU negotiated a relatively low interest rate of 23% with a local branch of the Malawi Savings Bank, which also agreed to waive the initial assessment fees for a loan. The program is open to employees who have worked with APZU for at least 2.5 years. Loans are capped at 6 months of the employee’s salary and paid over a term of 2 years. Repayments to the bank will be deducted directly from the employee’s paychecks.
This new benefit has been highly anticipated among APZU staff, reports PIH Malawi Project Manager Annemarie Ackerman. So far, 36 employees have enrolled, and have been given loans ranging from $320 to $3,600. The majority of the loans will fund house building or home improvement projects. Several will help jumpstart small businesses, ranging from starting a beauty salon to purchasing a cow to sell its milk.
As staff currently enrolled in the program begin so successfully pay off their loans, APZU plans to extend the benefit to more employees.