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.


  1. Hi Bryan,
    My name is Jason Hahn. I was trying to find more info on microfinance in Congo-Brazzaville and came across your blog. I'm W&L '99 and was one of the first through the Shepherd Program. I am now getting an MBA and interning at the Grameen Foundation (a U.S. based org working with microfinance and technology). We're sending someone to Congo-B in the next few weeks to take a look at partnering with MFIs there. Any info you have on the MFI scene in Congo-B would be great. Also, how did you get set up with starting an MFI with Hope? You can contact me at

  2. Brian,

    The pictures on your blog are fantastic. I am so impressed with what you are doing in Rwanda and the Congo. Thank you for keeping us informed and I will continue to follow your blog.


  3. Brian,

    Thanks for the work you are doing. Joining you in prayer that the registration papers would come through to begin work in Brazzaville!


  4. This question What am I doing here?, is very interesting, I like this post, thanks for sharing this information!

  5. Brian, Once every few years in a long and humble career as a teacher, a student passes through your classroom door and somehow you know that he is destined to make a very real and inspiring contribution to a greater cause than just his own personal well-being. For me, you were one of those students and after visiting "a thousand hills and a river," I have tears in my eyes and heart-felt pride that you are fulfilling your dreams and touching so many who need your help. Love and my greatest admiration, Dottie Harvey