Dear Friends, The novel coronavirus (COVID-19) is changing the world in which we live day-by-day, hour-by-hour, almost minute-by-minute. After weeks watching in disbelief as the pandemic unfolded in communities far from our own, my colleagues and I at FINCA now see it affecting our lives and the lives of people we know and love. As we monitor the spread of the virus, our primary concern is for our employees and our customers in the nearly four dozen countries that we touch. To help slow the spread of the disease, we’ve eliminated non-essential travel and made it easy for our employees to practice social distancing and care for their families by encouraging teams to work remotely. Even more importantly, we’re assessing the risks faced by our clients, staff and partners in the world’s more remote corners and determining how best to respond to their needs. Ultimately, we know that they will bear the greatest burden from COVID-19. For them, following even the most basic prevention guidelines could be difficult. The communities they live in lack basic services such as clean water, health care infrastructure and reliable energy service. They are at risk from the virus itself and are among the most financially vulnerable, with little or no resources to support them through extended economic hardship. They will need our help, and we must be ready to provide it before they even ask. I am confident that the world will prevail against this immense challenge. If we respond appropriately, we might even emerge stronger and more united as a global community. FINCA will continue to share information with its staff, clients and partners about safe behavior, be decisive and diligent in taking preventative measures, and work hard to support our customers where we can with solutions that fit the problems they face. As we have further updates, we’ll post them on our website, Twitter and Facebook. In the meantime, my colleagues and I at FINCA wish you good health and safety. Sincerely yours, Rupert W. Scofield Chairman, FINCA Canada
With only 10 years left to achieve the 17 SDGs, we as a global community have accomplished a less than proportionate amount of progress toward each goal. It is our hope that this piece educates and inspires others to look at how they too can contribute to the achievement of the SDGs. Because only through worldwide cooperation and action will we be able to accomplish these ambitious goals by 2030. With our 2020 resolution to continue working toward our mission to alleviate poverty, learn how BrightLife, the social enterprise we created, contributes to the achievement of the SDGs.
BrightLifeBrightLife is a social enterprise in Uganda created by FINCA International. Its mission is to provide access to and financing for basic service products. This includes solar home systems, improved cookstoves and productive use assets. BrightLife directly and indirectly contributes to 9 of 17 SDGs:
SDG 1: No PovertyBrightLife improves access to essential basic services for low-income consumers who would otherwise not have these services. These essential services include clean energy, clean cooking and clean water. Many products can also be used to generate income, creating new revenue streams to help consumers move out of poverty. This is exactly what Josephine Nabyalu did. She previously used kerosene lamps to light her shop at night, but the strong odor often repelled customers and the lamps would sometimes leak and ruin her produce. Now, with her BrightLife solar lamps, her stall is illuminated well after dark so she can remain open longer and attract more customers.
SDG 2: Zero HungerBrightLife’s clean cooking products provide a more efficient and safe way to prepare food. Users can prepare food in less time, and often save money by spending less on fuel.
These cookstoves help me to prepare meals much faster and they produce less smoke which has improved my health, and they also save me money by economizing firewood and charcoal usage. -Joweria Nalwadda
SDG 3: Good Health and Well-BeingBrightLife products directly improve air quality and reduce the number of health-related illnesses and deaths due to smoke inhalation. These BrightLife products also prevent air pollution and reduce the risk of fires from using kerosene lanterns.
SDG 5: Gender EqualityBrightLife offers various financing options for its products, enabling women and other low-income populations access to life-enhancing products. Additionally, BrightLife’s products reduce opportunities for violence against women by providing safety lights for houses and reducing the need for frequent firewood retrieval. Allen Nakayenga is just one example of a woman who improved her family’s lives through BrightLife. She learned about BrightLife through her women’s [saving and loaning] group and used a FINCA group loan to purchase her first solar lantern. Her children can now read and do their homework at night, Allen is saving money on kerosene, and she is also able to walk safely to evening community gatherings.
SDG 6: Clean Water and SanitationBrightLife has provided access to water filtration products that bring clean drinking water to low-income populations without access to clean water.
SDG 7: Affordable and Clean EnergyBrightLife’s mission is to enable low-income populations to have access to modern, clean energy products that provide significant efficiency improvements. This was what attracted Rose Nayiga and her husband Godfrey to BrightLife. Through the flexibility of low monthly payments, they could finally afford a $62 solar home system. After the loss of one of their children to a kerosene-related fire, solar lighting gave them the peace of mind that every parent deserves, regardless of income level.
SDG 8: Decent Work and Economic GrowthBrightLife provides entrepreneurs with the opportunity to start and grow their businesses through its products. For example, solar lighting products enable businesses to stay open later, which increases revenue.
SDG 10: Reduced InequalitiesBy enabling access to life-enhancing products for low-income populations, BrightLife is reducing inequalities within its markets.
People say solar is expensive, but these products are durable, powerful and they save me money over time. -Allen Nakayenga
SDG 17: Partnerships for the GoalsBrightLife works in collaboration with a variety of actors—donor institutions, governments, technical assistance providers, researchers—to tackle energy access and financial inclusion.
With the holidays around the corner, we know that everyone is busy preparing for special gatherings with friends and family—cleaning the house, buying gifts, planning travels, and of course, cooking delicious food. To help you out during this busy time of year, we have gathered a couple of our favorite holiday recipes from clients around the world to share with you. Though these recipes may not be what you’re used to, we urge you to give at least one—if not both—a try. Our clients have worked hard to build their businesses, and they are excited to share some recipes from their countries with the supporters that helped them achieve their business goals.
Holiday Recipe 1: Guatemalan Hot ChocolateIn Guatemala, FINCA client Gladiz Maritza Palencia Morales runs a chocolate shop just outside of Antigua. Every day her shop produces about 80 pounds of chocolate, which she sells to 50 local shops and vendors. If ever you were to visit Gladiz’s chocolate shop, you would be greeted with the rich aroma of roasting cocoa beans and a beaming Gladiz to say hello. Gladiz is extremely grateful for the FINCA loans she has received throughout the years and the supporters who made them possible. Chocolate is an expensive product to produce and requires a lot of business inputs up front. When she decided to start her business, Gladiz knew it would be difficult, but at the urging of her brother, and the financial support FINCA provided, she decided to take the risk and pursue her dream. And Gladiz is so happy that she did. Not only has she established a successful chocolate business, but with the increased income she receives from her shop, she now has enough money to send all of her children to university—something she could only dream of before starting her business. Below is a holiday recipe for Guatemalan hot chocolate, which Gladiz would be proud for you to make. Whether using chocolate directly from her shop or from your local grocery store, this recipe is sure to be a hit at any holiday event. Ingredients
- 1-2 tablets Guatemalan pressed cocoa (look for pressed cocoa in the international aisle of your grocery store)
- 1 cup whole milk
- 1 cinnamon stick
- pinch salt
Holiday Recipe 2: Tanzanian PizzaJane Hendry runs a successful restaurant in Dar es Salaam, Tanzania. In addition to having a passion for cooking, she also has a strong business sense and is no stranger to hard work. When she began her business 15 years ago, Jane used a FINCA loan to buy a freezer and refrigerator. This savvy investment enabled her to buy food in bulk at wholesale prices. This cut down on her operating costs, which created more revenue for her business. Throughout the years, Jane has continued financing smart business investments through FINCA. Her restaurant has since expanded to include a van for making deliveries, a garden where she grows her own vegetables and herbs, and an expanded seating area. But more importantly, her successful business has made a huge impact on her family’s lives. Through the income earned from her business, Jane was able to pay for her children’s education and buy her own land where she plans to build a new home. Jane is very grateful for the support she has received from FINCA over the years, and she knows none of it would have been possible without our supporters. That is why she is so excited for you to try making a Tanzanian pizza. It is her hope that you will enjoy this little taste of Tanzania while using some typical holiday leftovers in a fun new way. Ingredients Dough
- 1 cup of all-purpose flour
- 1 tsp salt
- 2 tbsp vegetable oil
- 1/2 cup water; you might need more so add a little at a time
- 1 small onion diced
- 2 tomatoes diced
- 1 cup minced leftover turkey
- 2-inch cream cheese cube
- 1 tbsp mayonnaise
- 1 egg
- 1 chili (such as jalapeno) optional
- 1 tbsp + 1 tsp canola oil
A Holiday Thanks To YouAll over the world, people look forward to spending time with friends and family during the holidays, and our clients are no different. We hope that as you share these recipes with your friends and family this holiday season, that you feel our clients’ immense gratitude for the supporters who enabled them to follow their dreams and achieve their goals
This research looks at how and why a specific segment of early adopters in Uganda used entry-level solar energy products to make their initial steps up the energy ladder. These first steps are important because consumers must overcome significant barriers on the path to adoption, including cost, lack of familiarity and the pull of old habits. Positive initial experiences can build confidence and nurture the demand for future purchases, while broken equipment and unfulfilled expectations can just as easily prejudice them against an entire class of products. Understanding the experiences and motivations of early adopters opens a window into this critical moment in the market’s inception and can inform further efforts to build demand for solar as well as other emerging products that address basic needs for the world’s poor. It is also central for understanding the social impact of these products, because turning potential benefits into real-life improvements depends on the customer behaviors that surround them. The research study and report were led by Scott Graham and Anahit Tevoysan of FINCA International’s research team, in collaboration with Eric Verploegen from MIT D-Lab. Study participants were customers of BrightLife, a social enterprise by FINCA International in Uganda.
Executive SummaryDownload the Executive Summary »
White PaperDownload the White Paper »
FINCA International’s BrightLife is piloting a new initiative that brings solar lanterns to rural schools in Uganda. The project, led by FINCA UK with funding from a FINCA UK supporter and the Signify Foundation, allows students to use solar lanterns in school and borrow them to take home—much like you would borrow a book from a library—to facilitate evening studying for off-grid households.
Off-Grid Students are at a Disadvantage Compared to their On-Grid PeersWhen the sun sets across most of sub-Saharan Africa, where two-thirds of the population has no access to electricity, the school day ends and learning stops. For an entire half day, students and teachers must suspend academic activities—reading, homework, tutoring, grading—until the natural light returns in the morning. Rural areas are the least connected to the electrical grid, yet their schools and students must compete for results with their more connected urban counterparts. For those lucky to be on-grid, the electricity is often unreliable and expensive, while few alternatives exist. Countries like Uganda have committed to improving educational access and outcomes for all children, but grid and other infrastructural constraints continue to pose the biggest handicap to rural schools. To contribute to efforts to level the playing field for these rural schools, FINCA UK has joined hands with one of its supporters and the Signify Foundation to bring a solar energy program, known as “Lamp Library,” to schools in developing countries. The project is piloting in Uganda through FINCA International’s clean energy social enterprise, BrightLife.
The Lamp Library Helps to Create a Level Playing FieldThe project identifies a selection of schools in peri-urban and rural areas that have little or no access to electricity and retrofits them to house 100 solar lamps per school. In the selection process, BrightLife meets with the school faculty, students and parents to introduce the project and gauge local community support. Students in selected schools will be able to use lamps on-campus and have the option to also take them home for evening study. In addition, a curriculum co-developed with an educational consultant will teach students about the benefits of solar energy. This program will give the students’ households direct access to BrightLife so they can learn more about its innovative and life-enhancing clean energy products. School administrations also have the opportunity to benefit from training in entrepreneurship and how to leverage this project to generate new revenue streams for their schools. Stefan Grundmann, President & CEO of BrightLife, had this to say:
It is easy to underestimate the value of light if you haven’t experienced off-grid living, but for students it could be the difference between pursuing academic interests and settling for a lifetime of unexplored potential. Our hope is that the Lamp Library can help to facilitate more learning and academic engagement in rural schools.The first Lamp Library officially opened in February in Mbute, a public primary school in Mpigi District, 60 miles outside the capital, Kampala. In the coming months, the project will be rolled out to two additional schools located in Jinja District in eastern Uganda. Combined, the three schools serve nearly 1,200 students.
Assessing the Impact of Solar Lighting on EducationBrightLife will monitor the participating schools on a monthly basis to review progress, track impact metrics and introduce additional clean energy products to interested families. As part of its mission, the project intends to study the impact that solar energy access can have on students’ education, particularly if energy access leads to greater resiliency in schools and households. In addition to the goal of improving educational outcomes, the project also hopes to create a pathway for improved energy access among low-income communities. If you are interested in learning more about the Lamp Library initiative and donating to support the project, please contact Bill Lane at [email protected].
While financial inclusion has been on the rise globally, driven by mobile phones and the internet, the gap in account ownership between men and women has stagnated. In fact, according to the World Bank’s 2017 Global Findex, the gender gap has widened in some countries, including Pakistan.
At financial institutions, Pakistani men outnumber women account holders by 68 percent. In mobile banking, the gap widens to 78 percent.Since FINCA Microfinance Bank Limited (“FINCA Pakistan“) re-branded in 2013, it has been working tirelessly to bring financial solutions closer to women. Last year, FINCA Pakistan reached an agreement to provide SimSim, its digital payments solution, to Ghar Par, a professional home beauty service. Ghar Par provides a platform for women to offer their beauty services to other women at their homes in Islamabad and Lahore. The partnership between FINCA Pakistan and Ghar Par provides beauticians with SimSim accounts. SimSim, Pakistan’s first free-to-use mobile wallet, was developed in partnership with Finja, a Pakistan-based fintech company. It enables Ghar Par’s employees to make and receive payments digitally. Designed to be as easy to use as possible, the product minimizes the hassle for women who may be less familiar with mobile technology or banking. In a country where only 7 percent of women have bank accounts, digital platforms could be transformative. SimSim is, quite literally, the first bank account ever held by many of the women who use the service, including many Ghar Par employees. It solves several barriers to financial inclusion for women in Pakistan, including accessibility, security, privacy and convenience. Women employees can now electronically transfer their earnings without the inconvenience or risk of carrying cash back to the head office. Further, digital platforms such as SimSim offer FINCA Pakistan and other financial service providers an opportunity to understand the payment behavior of users so that they can tailor credit and other products that further strengthen women’s inclusion into the financial system.
Judith Ocendi lives with her husband, Samuel, a home builder, and their two children, ages 5 and 16, in Uganda. Two years ago, Judith was looking for work when she met Joseph, a FINCA Uganda employee. Joseph told Judith about BrightLife, a FINCA initiative that brings clean energy products to poor and off-grid families. Judith was already familiar with FINCA’s microfinance services. In fact, many of the women in her community were members of Village Banking™ groups. With the backing of a trusted name like FINCA, BrightLife caught Judith’s attention. Even better, it would allow her to make an impact doing something she was experienced in: selling solar energy products. So, Judith applied to become a senior sales agent for BrightLife.
I really enjoy working with the grassroots, local people—those with varying socioeconomic status. I like being able to change peoples’ lives and perceptions about what is possible.For Judith, the job with BrightLife aligned her career interests and personal goals. Employment with BrightLife allows Judith not only to pay her children’s school fees, but also to help her local community. In just one year with BrightLife, Judith has seen the special bond FINCA creates with its customers. “One man told me he really likes the way FINCA follows up with its clients—always checking-in to see how they are doing and to introduce new products and services that benefit their lives,” recounted Judith.
He said he likes how FINCA remembers each and every client.After demonstrating strong commitment and results, Judith was promoted to a sales supervisor. Her leadership will be a great asset as BrightLife looks to grow and bring clean energy to more Ugandans.
Have women achieved equality? Today, women certainly have many more opportunities than generations ago. But there is still an area where women’s participation is severely lacking. Globally, women face great challenges in working. Women’s economic participation is critical to growing economies. In fact, the World Economic Forum predicts that if the global economic gender gap were narrowed, the world’s GDP could grow by $12 trillion by 2025. Yet, only 49 percent of women participate in the world’s labor force, as compared to 75 percent for men. Women are more likely than men to bear the responsibility of unpaid work at home, limiting their availability to join the workforce. They also make up the majority of informal workers – such as domestic workers, street vendors or seasonal laborers – that are unprotected by the government with wages paid under-the-table, if at all. Even if a woman wanted to start her own business, she faces limitations in accessing financial services, like small loans or savings accounts. That is why, for over 30 years, FINCA has been improving the lives of women with the help of financial services. Our female clients access small loans to build their businesses, increase their incomes and save for the future. As their businesses grow, these FINCA clients create a ripple. They hire women as employees, creating jobs and boosting the local economy. FINCA celebrates these pathbreakers who not only find success as entrepreneurs but help other women in their community thrive.
Mama Kapu, TanzaniaMama Kapu always dreamt of becoming a restauranteur in Dar es Salaam, Tanzania. She initially used FINCA loans to purchase a small plot of land to build her restaurant. As the business grew, so did her team. She was able to hire five female employees, most who relied on Mama Kapu’s business to feed, clothe and school their own children. “When I got a job at Mama Kapu’s restaurant, I thanked God,” Amina, one of Mama Kapu’s employees says. “I am a widow and have two children to look after. Getting a job is so difficult.”
Betty Nakintu, UgandaBetty Nakintu is a woman with endless energy. Ask her about her nursery and primary school in Kampala, Uganda, and she beams with pride, happily showing the many buildings and facilities for her school of 750 kids. Thanks to FINCA loans, Betty was able to build her school. Working from 6 am to 5 pm, Betty occasionally teaches classes but spends most of her day managing her 46 staff members and teachers, many of whom are women. She trains her teachers as well and takes pride in being in their supervisor. Sunny, who has been teaching at the school for two years, appreciates Betty’s management of the school. “I like the facilities and environment,” she says. “Everyone is cooperative.”
Customer-driven research is a continuous undertaking at FINCA. We collect data about our clients’ living standards and businesses to understand how they are benefitting from our programs and how we may better serve them. Recently, our Research team, led by Scott Graham and Anahit Tevosyan, conducted household surveys among FINCA clients in Haiti, with support from Global Affairs Canada. Survey data confirm that mission outreach in Haiti is strong: More than two-thirds of FINCA Haiti borrowers are living on less than $2 per day and about one-third live below the national poverty line. Additionally, 86 percent of FINCA’s borrowers in Haiti are women. Unsurprisingly, we found that incomes are markedly lower among women and people in rural areas. The data also paints a sobering picture of public services in Haiti. Most clients lack drinkable water in their homes. Sanitation is rudimentary and electricity is scarce. Despite these challenges, FINCA Haiti clients are able to save their resources and secure some basic assets (e.g., motorcycle, TV). This shows that poverty is not a monolithic phenomenon in people’s lives. Even while they contend with low incomes and difficult living conditions, FINCA clients find a way to achieve freedom of movement and information. Review the infographics below for a visual summary of the survey findings.
FINCA Canada was thrilled to be Horizon Travel and Lifestyle magazine’s March cover story–just in time to celebrate International Women’s Day. Horizon is a travel and lifestyle magazine distributed throughout Canada and the United States. It shares exciting travel destinations and attractions; however, the magazine also regularly features a story about organizations that are supporting international development and social justice. FINCA Canada ambassador Chloe Wilde represented FINCA Canada. She shared her reasons for supporting FINCA Canada and the important work FINCA Canada is doing by “allowing women to no longer be bystanders of their life due to societies’ roadblocks or economic challenges.” This is the second time FINCA has been featured on the cover of Horizon. We asked Horizon’s Executive Editor Holly Cambruzzi about her choice to include FINCA Canada.