Togo? Where is that?
Bryony Spooner, Marketing and Communications Director visits one of our newest Field Partners.
This month I was lucky enough to visit Togo with our dedicated Deki photographer Adam Dickens.
Before leaving, the most common question I was asked when mentioning my trip was ‘Togo? Where exactly is that?’
Well in case you aren’t familiar, Togo is a finger of country (38 miles wide and 284 miles long) in East Africa sandwiched between Ghana and Benin. 50% of the population lives below the poverty line making it one of the world’s poorest countries. Shockingly, one in eight children will not reach their fifth birthday, and two in twenty people will die from Malaria every year.
IADES (Institution D’Aide Au Developpement Economique Et Social) is one of our newest Field Partners and based in the capital, Lomé. They are a not-for-profit association whose objective is to improve the lives of the poor, especially women, by providing them with an opportunity to work their way out of poverty. With less than 5% of the population having access to a bank account, Togo is the perfect example of how microfinance can make a significant difference to peoples’ lives.
After abandoning our schedule of visiting entrepreneurs due to a torrential tropical downpour, I spoke with Director Christian Kadangah about his motivation for setting up IADES. At 31 years old, he is impressive, with an ethic for hard work and a huge amount of passion for what he does.
Christian told me he started out by studying finance and accounting at the public University in Lomé. He then took two separate internships in banks to learn more about finance. ‘I had heard of microfinance and knew of the good it could do but was unsure of how I could help’.
‘My turning moment was when I met two women in the courtyard of the bank where I was working, they told me they asked for small loans of 50,000 XOF (about £66 each)’ said Christian. ‘They said they had been turned away as the amount they had asked for was too small, and they had no credit history.’
Christian Kadangah - IADES, Director
Christian was so moved by their story he promised he would help. He went back and asked his Director again to consider them for a loan. He received the same response, ‘no’. Shortly after, Christian made the decision to resign. It took him another 12 months to set up IADES and get enough initial backers.
At first, he used his own savings to make the loans. In December 2012, the ladies he had met in the courtyard were amongst the first of a group of 13 in his local neighbourhood to receive loans. These loans were made on trust alone.
Christian could see the appetite for loans in his community and was keen to expand but needed more backing. After being turned down by many larger Microfinance organisations in the U.K. and the U.S. Christian finally came across Deki and applied. ‘It took some time to arrange the due diligence but when I found out I was accepted I was very, very happy’.
Thanks to Deki, IADES is now able to fund to 50-100 more loans a month and this will steadily increase. The loan recipients are 90% women and all come to him through word of mouth.
Over three, very packed, days in and around the capital I visited many entrepreneurs to see the impact that the loans were having on people’s lives. I also attended two workshops, one on social care and the other on business training. This was designed specially for women who may not be able to read or write.
I also visited a village outside of Lomé in the Keve region where IADES are implementing animal husbandry training. Last year, before the village started receiving loans, 90% of the village’s livestock was obliterated by rabies.
The work that IADES are doing in the communities of Lomé really opened my mind to the absolute necessity of training alongside Microfinance. One comment that a volunteer nurse made during the social training really struck a chord with me; ‘Money alone cannot solve the problem for these women’.
In the coming weeks, I am going to be reporting on what I experienced in more detail; I’m excited to let you know about the amazing training that IADES provide with every loan and I’ve many stories from Deki entrepreneurs who have started to end the cycle of poverty with your loans. I look forward to sharing all the pictures and film footage that Adam and I captured on the trip, too.
With Deki, you can provide life-changing amounts of money to those struggling with poverty. 100% of your loan goes to our entrepreneurs. Lend now, or become a Deki Friend.