By Roberta Zenere, Volunteer Ghana Country Expansion Coordinator
Kumasi is the capital city of the Ashanti Region in Southern Ghana. On Saturday (March 15th) I travelled there to meet some of the Zidisha borrowers who live and work in Ashtown, a suburb in the center of Kumasi.
Our first borrower from Kumasi was George Bonsu who is also the most dedicated Volunteer Mentor that we have in Ghana at the moment. He spread the voice about Zidisha within his community and now, out of the 52 active Zidisha borrowers, 17 are from Kumasi! All his assigned borrowers rely on him to get advice on how to manage their Zidisha loan and he is always willing to assist them.
George raised two loans though the Zidisha platform maintaining an overall repayment rate of 100%. With the first loan of 44 USD he bought a PC and with the second loan of 238 USD he bought six more PCs. The computers purchased are second-hand PCs, very simple in terms of specification, i.e. operating system, RAM, hard disk. This is why they were very cheap. In any case, they are enough for the purpose they need to serve.
The loans supported him to achieve his dream of creating an Internet Cafè and training center within his community. He called his organization “ZIDISHA Youth Empowerment & ICT Foundation” (ZYEF) as a sign of recognition towards Zidisha that assisted him in making his project a reality and which is also assisting youths in the surrounding area.
The ZYEF runs as an internet cafe point where people have the possibility to browse the Internet. Normally, this is the place where George’s friend who are also borrowers of Zidisha go to check their loan’s profile and post update for lenders (Internet browsing for Zidisha purposes is free!). Three times a week the ZYEF also offers ICT courses on several topics such as computer basics, Microsoft Office applications, computer/mobile phones hardware/software and graphic design. Classes started just few weeks ago and, at the moment, the students (both children and adults) enrolled in the course are eighteen.
More importantly, the foundation is much more than an internet cafe or training center: it is a point for social aggregation where people can meet, interact and learn. Indeed, the place has soon become very popular, especially among the students of a nearby school, St Anne International School, which counts around 1,300 pupils from Kindergarten to Junior High School.
I was really amazed to see the social drive and commitment that drive George in running the ZYEF and in taking care of its members. I also had the opportunity to meet Nketsia Brew Nana, another Zidisha borrower from Kumasi and ICT teacher by profession who dedicates his free time to training children at the ZYEF course. He is passionate about everything related to computer and about teaching and he is eager to transfer his ICT knowledge to children to prevent them lagging behind in a world in which technology is the future.
George also shared with me some projects for the near and long-term future. Currently, the ZYEF is raising funds to organize a quiz competition among 30 schools in Kumasi for testing and comparing their knowledge in ICT. Also, George is planning to offer Mobile Money services at his center to facilitate Zidisha borrowers in registering for Mobile Money, cashing-in their loans and sending loan repayments. Another great idea is to use part of the income from the internet cafe to create a small fund in the name of the ZYEF that can be used to lend through the Zidisha platform and assist new young entrepreneurs. In the long term, George aims to open new branches of the ZYEF around Kumasi and this will be probably the purpose of a third Zidisha loan.
Finally, on Saturday I also met Ernest Fosuh, who just raised a second loan of 296 USD and Atta Gyamfi Gyamfi who recently joined Zidisha’s lending community. Both expressed appreciation towards the service offered by Zidisha and are quite satisfied about the improvements experience in their business so far.
Social impact is a common expression that goes hand-by-hand with microfinance. On Saturday I had a tangible example of what the social impact of George’s loan is: education, youth empowerment, community development and inclusion. I am very happy that Zidisha made its contribution to make this possible and I am looking forward to see the future progress of this project.