Wednesday, August 26, 2009

Around Kigali

Here are some disparate shots from my first several days in Kigali.  I haven't really had time yet to fully explore the city.  But these will hopefully begin to paint the picture.






This is my house.


Friday, August 21, 2009

Kigali Kids

I've been on the ground in Kigali for just over a day.  I spent a large part of my first full day in Kigali attending a couple of meetings related to a very active Savings Training program that Hope International is operating with the Anglican Church.  This program teaches the poorest in communities across Rwanda how to save money as a part of cooperatives (these folks would be unable to qualify for microfinance loans).  Just on the other side of the wall of the Anglican Church's grounds is a typical Kigali neighborhood/slum.  A group of kids saw me taking some shots and were more than eager to pose.












Thursday, August 20, 2009

What am I doing here?

  • So, I am spending approximately three months here in Rwanda working for Urwego Opportunity Bank (UOB) on behalf of Hope International, a shareholder in the bank.  UOB is a mature microfinance institution (MFI) that has over 30,000 credit clients.  It also functions as a basic savings-driven commercial bank.  I am going to be helping out here with some business and financial analysis, while getting the opportunity to see an established MFI from the inside-out in order to take those lessons learned to the Hope effort I am joining in a few months in Brazzaville, Congo.
  • I am going to be helping Hope start a new MFI from scratch in Brazzaville, an area that has no real current microfinance presence due to the economic, social, and political difficulties that have troubled the area in recent decades.  As I type, we are still awaiting final approval from the governmental authorities to be able to officially get our efforts underway. 
  • Hope is a Christian-centered organization that supports and develops MFIs across the globe with a particular focus on the toughest places on earth to do such a thing, which naturally led to an emphasis on post-conflict Central Africa.  Hope has started or partnered with MFIs in Rwanda, DRC, and Burundi in Central Africa as well as Afghanistan, China, Haiti, and Russia, among several other locations.
  • I had become a little stir-crazy standing in the middle of the fairway of the middle market finance universe and had always had a living overseas itch that remained unscratched.  Microfinance and the concepts around the poverty alleviation capabilities of free enterprise and the capital markets had been areas of interest since my econ studies and involvement in the Shepherd Poverty Program during my second year at W&L.  I was focused on finding a way to work in microfinance in the developing world in a role that wouldn’t be limited to simply a back-office desk job performing tricks with Excel.  I wanted to find something more organic and hands-on than that.  I never could have imagined those parameters would have led me to Hope and working as a part of a 5 person team to start a microlending bank from the ground up in Brazzaville, Congo, but that’s where I am headed. 
Stayed tuned, and I will try to do decent job of telling the story of my year in Rwanda and the Congo.