January 19, 2012, 2:07 EST – Kinshasa, Democratic Republic of Congo
I spent my second full day in Kinshasa with the HOPE Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC) staff. Once again I spent the day in the field: this time visiting repayment meetings. As I said in yesterday’s post, since the election at the end of November, things have been unsettled in the capital city of Kinshasa. The staff is working hard to get our program back to normal, working hard to catch up on both repayments (collecting payments on existing loans) and disbursements (distributing new loans). So while I wasn’t able to see a normal operating environment while I was in Kinshasa, I did manage to cram a lot of action into two short days.
HOPE frequently refers to our “96 percent repayment rate”, which means that about four percent of our loans get written off. That’s a remarkably low percentage. I’ve spent my career managing credit programs at Capital One, and four percent is a great loss rate in any country, but particularly in the countries where HOPE operates. The key is careful client selection on behalf of the loan officer and supervisor, the solidarity of the group, and the diligence that the staff shows in tracking and managing delinquencies.
Having already visited several groups that are “current,” or fully paid up on their loans, today I asked to visit groups that are in some stage of delinquency. I traveled around the Gombe section of Kinshasa with Jean-Guy, our loan supervisor, and Margeurite, one of our loan officers. Our mobile collections squad visited several groups and had a successful day. Our loan officers were firm but compassionate and collected between some and all of the money that was in arrears.
In the late afternoon I walked the HOPE DRC leadership team through a set of new operational tools, designed to make our processes more consistent and efficient.
I will be leaving for home tomorrow afternoon. I will fly from Kinshasa to Addis Ababa, Ethiopia, then to Rome, then to Washington Dulles airport. I will board my flights with fully charged electronics, sleep aids, and lots of memories of a great trip. I will arrive back in the States in the late morning on Saturday. I hope that you’ve enjoyed these blog posts. I’ve certainly enjoyed writing them. God bless all of you!