Catching Up with Djibril at Senegal’s Premier Retail Shop

The last time we meet up with Djibril Pouye he was selling various electronic devices in his shop. Now, in addition to selling iPads, laptops, and cellphones, Djibril has added chic perfumes to his stock for resale! Djibril’s high-end products allows him to differentiate himself from stiff competition. Even though he sells fancy products, Djibril still only earns about $9.66 per day. While he isn’t earning much money, Djibril can still afford to continue paying for his brother’s schooling. Check out what Sam Gant, one of our Client Relationship Interns in Senegal, had to say about meeting up with Djibril recently:

Dear Lenders,

My name is Sam Gant and I’m currently one of the Client Relationship Managers working here in Dakar, Senegal. Today I got to meet with Djiby, an extremely enterprising young man who took time out of his hectic workday in Dakar’s bustling Alize market to meet with me at his home in Parcelles. Djiby has recently expanded the products of his mobile business to include different perfumes, such as Lacoste, Black XS, and Allure, which e buys in bulk at Sandaga market for 1000 CFA per bottle and sells to his customers for a 50% markup. Often clients will request specific products that he will find for them, but following his partnership with Zidisha Djiby is able to do more business by having a wider range of stock on hand.

Djiby lives on thin margins, paying an average of 3000 CFA per day on food and transport, in addition to the 25,000 per month he pays for housing– meanwhile, he earns 5000 CFA on the average day. He is very committed to his family, and turns over part of his money to them to help his brother continue his education. He thanks you for your patience and confidence in him, and hopes to apply for another loan once he has repaid this one. 

An education that paid off

Studying clothing production for four long years has surely led to fruitful results for young businesswoman, Oureye Faye, who started a sewing business after receiving her diploma. Personal and economic hardships such as her father passing away and her household ceiling breaking did not deter her willpower to thrive financially, especially in her efforts to support her four children and the families of her brothers and sisters. It is imperative that she gets back to her sewing space as soon as possible to generate income for her family. She is using her Zidisha loan to achieve this objective, along with investing in fabrics and expanding her workshop. One of our Client Relationship Interns, Sam Gant was able to interview the ambitious Mrs. Faye about her business plans, the details of which are provided below:
My name is Sam Gant and I’m currently one of the Client Relationship Managers active in Senegal. On Thursday June 14th I stopped by Mme Faye’s atelier in Parcelles 12, a small workshop attached to her family’s house with bookshelves full of brightly colored fabric and a very fat rabbit dozing under the footpedal of her sewing machine. Mme Faye is garrulous and savvy, and explained to me that she had divided her Zidisha loan into three parts so as not to use it all to quickly. Due to the fact that many clients buy BouBous on credit, she needs to have a significant stock of capital to buy fabric to make new clothes while waiting to be paid for completed products. She sells between four and six boubous per month for between 10,000 and 15,000 CFA depending on the complexity of the order and her relationship with the client. She is able to finish elaborate garments in a matter of days, a cabability born of experience (she explained that she has been making traditional clothes since the age of 15, 15 years of experience by now.)
Although she supports a large family and the profit margins of couture are thin, Mme Faye’s Zidisha loan allows her to dramatically expand her client base and receive income more regularly. I hope to post a few photos I took of her and her family over the next few days. If you comment she is also planning to put up a post sometime next week and I’m sure she would be happy to answer specific questions.

Patience is the key to success

Developing a small business requires a lot of careful planning and future forecasting. Running a food business and lacking the merchandise to do so can exert a heavy toll on a businessman Gabriel Diops’s profit earnings and his family expenses. The luring tactic of his business is that customers prefer to come to his store due to its cheaper products. Mr. Diop is a bartender by profession but he is ardently looking to break into the business arena and a Zidisha loan can help achieve his aspirations. Sam Gant, our Client Relationship Intern had the opportunity to interview him a few days ago. Below is his account of the meeting that had taken place:
My name is Sam Gant I’m one of the Client Relationship Managers active in Senegal right now. On Friday June 8th I had the pleasure of meeting Gaby in his home in Parcelles, where he showed me the bar he and his brother invite their neighbors too and told me more about his future plans. Gaby is enormously popular and well-known in his neighborhood, which explains why when myself and another volunteer visited his house there was already a crew of regular patrons passing the afternoon there.
At the moment he stocks the two Senegalese national beers, Flag and Gazelle, as well as several imported wines, which they serve to neighbors and visitors in the sunny courtyard of their home. Gaby’s goal is to refurbish a free-standing establishment where he can sell bottles of alcohol for carry out as well as dry goods, but he explained to me that construction was stagnant over the course of the recent elections and has only recently gotten back on track.
He anticipates completing his store within about 2 months. He remains very grateful to Zidisha lenders for their confidence and patience, and hopes to keep you apprised of further developments.

Natural Healing in Dakar

Mme. Traore

Living in a developing country presents many challenges that Westerners have long forgotten about. Over the counter healthcare products, for example, are something that most can purchase at a whim. In Dakar, Senegal things are not so easy. Madame Aissatou Traore is trying to provide some relief for those in need of such healthcare products. By partnering with Arizona based Forever Living Products, Aissatou is able to distribute their health products in Parcelles, a neighborhood of Dakar. Sam Gant, our Client Relationship Intern, had a chance to meet with Mme. Traore recently. You can read about their meeting in Sam’s own words below:

Dear Lenders,

My name is Sam Gant and I’m one of the Client Relationship Managers here in Senegal. On Thursday June 7th I had the opportunity to meet with Aissatou in her home in Parcelles, where she showed me both the aloe vera plans that she grows in her courtyard and the astounding variety of aloe vera refined products she sells–through her company she has access to more than 300 products. Mme Traore believes strongly in the value of natural supplements as preventative management, and explained how a variety of dietary supplements and ointments could serve to keep her clients healthy. Aissatou is a model vendor for FOREVER products– she has used aloe products to help her mother through a bout of illness, and with her profits from sales she recently moved to a larger apartment. 

She is a very capable and canny businesswoman who is willing to put in long hours of travel to succeed in the entrepreneurial field. She recently made a14 hour long day trip 50 kilometers outside of Dakar to spread her products, and keeps meticulous notes of all of her clients to keep them stocked with their chosen supplements. 

Mme Traore is very grateful to her lenders for supporting her, and works hard to overcome any setbacks she encounters. 

Staying Busy in Senegal


Serigne Mbacké Guèye is a young sheep farmer from Sema, a village in Senegal. Serigne has raised sheep since he was a small child, and has grown quite fond of the profession. His sheep are especially popular during certain Muslim feasts. Serigne originally wanted to purchase 20 sheep, some feed, veterinary services, and a shepard to watch over his flock while he works in Dakar. His Zidisha loan has allowed him to buy the additional sheep and pay for the other related costs. In addition to paying for his farming related activities, Serigne was able to invest in a street boutique! While he was is in Dakar our Client Relationship Intern Sam Gant had a chance to meet up with Serigne. Below you can read what Sam wrote about their meeting.

The Mosque where Serigne works part-time.

Dear Lenders,

My name is Sam Gant and I’m one of the Client Relationship Managers active in Senegal right now. Today I met with Serigne at the mosque where he works in the genteel Point E neighborhood, and in only a few hours received a dizzying and informative tour of the Mosque, Serigne’s home, and the neighborhood in general. Serigne remains engaged in a diversity of industries–he primarily divides his time between doing upkeep work at the mosque and working at his store Parapluies Mondiales in the HLM market. Although he continues to buy food for his sheep he has stopped expanding the flock that his family maintains in the village. 

He explained that business has been slow following the tumultuous elections, and he expects that he will be able to maximize his loan once the commercial climate improves. He anticipates a significant financial boost in the fall as clients begin buying sheep for a number of upcoming festivals, but for the time being the flocks need time to mature. He was very appreciative towards the Zidisha lenders and hopes to keep you apprised of future developments. 

-Sam Gant

Transcending Kenya’s borders

Happiness is a word that can best characterize Pst. Joseph Ndungu who is married and is the proud father of 10 children. He makes canvas bags for school children alongside traveling bags and he also makes seat covers for motorbikes. His reasoning and motivation behind developing canvas bags is that children are being born daily and there is a high demand for canvas bags once they become enrolled in school. His business strategy behind motorbike seat cover creation is that motorbikes are being bought on a constant basis and they are prone to damage due to depreciation in value and plainly due to the environment itself.  I managed to interview Mr. Ndungu via email and asked him some questions about the current state of his prosperous business:
1. How is the competition looking in the business of making seat covers for bikes and canvas bags for school children? You mentioned there was low competition, but how is it looking now and how is it affecting your business currently?
I am in Nakuru county about 35km away from Nakuru town. Rongai is the divisional headquarter surrounded by big lands.
I have been in this town since 1990 when I started involving myself in the business area.
When I was looking for the business that I would start I considered some things because I was ministering a church by that time and I could not leave and so I decided to start the unique work that was not in the town. I started binding books mostly Bibles. To expand my business, I thought of making school bags for there was no one dealing with it. I went and bought a bag plus materials and I made a canvas bag. It looked good than the one I bought. I started making school bags from that day onwards.
When the Boda-boda came I looked at the motorbikes and I decided to expand my business again through making seat covers, which is paying me more than other things. I do serve people from 20 square km away.
2. What inspired you to make canvas bags in the first place? Please share any personal anecdotes if you can, it would be greatly appreciated!
I introduced canvas schoolbags and I have been selling them and I do give a guarantee of 2 years just to give surety that what I am making is of high quality. I have been selling in retail and my bags have gone as far as Mombasa and Kitale.
Up to now there is no competition in this business.
3. Where do you see yourself and your business in the next few years? Any plans for expansion?
I am planning to expand my business even to reach other countries. I visited Uganda and I can get market there. Also I am planning to visit Southern Sudan to find out whether I can also get a market there.
4. Further comments?

Through Zidisha, I have achieved a lot because I have managed to purchase my materials, which are very expensive. If only I can be given larger amount like Kshs 100,000 I would be in a position to reach my goals.

What I get as profit, I decide to share it with an orphan whom I have supported him in his education. It’s my prayer that one day I will be in a position of lending to others than being a borrower.
Thanks to Zidisha family for what they are doing.
Apart from the above activities in my business, I do involve in making Fishing Flies as Mr. Achintya Rai quoted in my profile after vising my workshop, which I do sell them in U.S.A and U.K. countries. I do humbly request if in Zidisha family there is someone who do the business to kindly email me.

Zidisha’s P2P Platform in Action

Duncan Chege
Duncan Chege with his computers

From time to time we see great examples of how our P2P lending platform is making a real difference in someones business, and often life. There is no quantitative value that can be placed on the experiences that lenders and borrowers take part in when they are able to communicate with each other. Take for example Duncan Chege, a Kenyan business owner who has a computer school for aspiring youth. Duncan is seeking a loan to purchase two computers and a printer, the latter of which is in great demand in his area. When lender ‘Hope2012’ read about Duncan’s plan they offered some advice on the expensive, and often inflated, printer cartridge prices. ‘Hope2012’ linked a webpage to Duncan that offered some great information on printer cartridges and tips on how to find the best prices.

These interactions provide irrefutable proof that the P2P platform that was pioneered by Zidisha is working better than we could have imagined. There are other examples of this type of interaction between lenders and borrowers, but I wanted to highlight this instance for our entire community to enjoy. My hope is that other lenders will enjoy interacting with the borrowers as much as ‘hope2012’ has.

Some evolutionary aspects of mobile technology

Micro finance is essentially a business of scale, where it operates on maximizing its
customer’s (whether it be lender or borrower) utilization of financial prospects at the
lowest cost. It is important to note that one of the biggest challenges facing
microfinance service providers, particularly in rural areas of the developing world,
is implementing a Management Information System (MIS) that can interface with
a large number of clients across a region with unreliable physical infrastructure
(communication, power, transport, etc.) Fortunately, the advent of mobile phone
technology led to the proliferation of basic microfinance services, especially in
remote areas and has led to activities such as: payment services for utility or other
bills through mobile phones,  money transfers between accounts, specifically remittances.
The appeal behind the usage of mobile phone technology is derived due to some of the following factors:

  1. Service characteristics of mobile banking: it is convenient, flexible, affordable and in close proximity to the poor.
  2. The right position of mobile technology: it competes with other financial services in its own right by being cheap, convenient and safe, which is much more than what regular banks have to offer to the general public.
  3. Offering the right product in mobile banking: Considering the masses of migrant workers in countries offering mobile banking (Pakistan, Kenya, Uganda, Philippines), there is a big market for money transfers on account of remittances. As a result, this is major source of revenue for MNOs offering mobile banking services.
  4. Giving customers the banking service they need: Customers tend to be myopic and are generally not aware of their future needs. Beyond just paying their remittances, customers can use their phones to pay their utility bills, microloans and their ability to send donations to NGOs and governmental organizations.

One of Kenya’s biggest success stories came in the guise of its M-Pesa program. The initial concept of M-Pesa was to create a service which allowed microfinance borrowers to conveniently receive and repay loans using the network of Safaricom airtime resellers.[3] This would enable microfinance institutions (MFIs) to offer more competitive loan rates to their users, as there is a reduced cost of dealing in cash. The users of the service would gain through being able to track their finances in an easier manner. But all good stories must to come to an end. In the case of M-Pesa, the service was trialled, and customers started adopting the service for a variety of alternative uses. Complications arose with Faulu, the partnering MFI. M-Pesa was re-focused and launched with a different value proposition: sending remittances home across the country and making payments. Nonetheless, the program was a success, especially in its advocacy for simplicity in its usage. There is also the glaring reality that while business models around the world are still being refined, mobile payment experiments in developing countries seem to be primarily driven by safety, rather than by mere convenience.
Mobile banking continues to be an innovative method of conducting personal finances in developing countries. It has developed substantially to such an extent that micro-initiatives are also being catered towards population segments in richer nations, where it is seen as being safer than carrying around cash and for providing much-needed access to a wide variety of financial services. 

Back on the horse

When summertime rolls around in Dakar, Aïda Sow is a good name to know. To make a living, she sells a medley of Senegalese staples including smoked fish, palm oil, and bissap—a sugary, iced infusion made from crimson hibiscus leaves.
Where does she look for inspiration? Her two children. Fulfilling a promise she made years ago, Aïda works to keep them in school so that they “do not miss out on education like their mother”. From the outset, her story has been one of meticulous saving and long-term planning.  Lacking the funds to complete high school, Aïda kept busy as a full-time housekeeper and earned the $600 needed to launch her business. She has grown from vendor to restaurant-owner despite a battle with cancer and the associated financial strain. Sam Gant brings us the latest from Ms. Sow’s bustling operation:

I visited Aida on May 30th and was very happy to see that her restaurant is enjoying a great deal of success in the neighborhood. Despite her previous health issues Mme Sow has made a courageous recovery, adding a small addition onto her house where she serves lunch and dinner. Her restaurant, “Le Plat du Jour,” is very popular among her neighbors, and I had the opportunity to chatting with two other Sacré Coeur residents while I enjoyed the plate of fish, couscous and rice that she absolutely insisted I accept. She explained that the restaurant is more popular during the evening than at lunchtime, and later during the day she serves beignets, homemade juices, and fish or meat along with rice. 
Her future ambitions include buying more chairs and tables and eventually expanding her seating area. She has only been open for one month but the amount of traffic she has already is encouraging.                                                                                                                         
Aïda gratefully acknowledges Zidisha’s ongoing support and we wish her nothing but the best as the upswing continues. With the dog days around the corner, let’s hope that parched patrons flock to Ms. Sow’s Plat du Jour for some chilled bissap and a plate of smoked fish.

Stay in the loop on Aïda Sow’s Zidisha profile page.

The pharmaceutical star of Dakar

Combé Thiaw stocks pharmaceutical supplies and serves a number of hospitals around Senegal’s capital. She built on her professional training as a pharmacist when she decided, “I could follow others’ example to become a supplier myself”. By providing high-quality products with top-notch service to her clients, she has gained the steadfast backing of the Zidisha lending community since her first of seven completed loans in April of last year. As a Client Relationship Intern, Sam Gant brings us the latest on many of our accomplished and well-respected business owners. On Wednesday, Sam caught up with Combé in Dakar: 

I met with Combé on May 30th at the bustling market of Grand Yoff, where she had been making deliveries to hospitals in the area, and then accompanied her by taxi out to her home in Golf-Camberene. Combé lives in a quiet neighborhood outside of Dakar, and on the long ride over she explained to me that after the initial expenses of purchasing medical supplies in bulk from the distributor, her next biggest cost is transportation. Hospitals in the Dakar area tend to be understocked, and so Combé frequently has to make deliveries at a moments notice to replenish emergency rooms across the city. She repays her loan in fluctuating quantities depending on when the hospitals reimburse her for her deliveries.
She expressed a great deal of gratitude to the lenders of Zidisha for allowing her to benefit from economies of scale, because her bulk purchases require her to have access to significant amounts of capital from day-to-day. Her home is cozy and well-equipped, a clear testament to how much access to microfinance has improved her ability to succeed as an independent entrepreneur. She plans to update lenders over the next few days with more precise examples of how she realizes a profit by purchasing in bulk and then delivering medical supplies.

Writing about her line of work, Madame Thiaw simply states, “My clients like to do business with me for the simple reason that I provide quality products, and deliver them as quickly as possible.” In her case, as in so many others, success begets success.
Even more inspiring than her demonstrated accomplishments is what lies ahead. Her operation is far from static; recently, a rental car has allowed Combé to simultaneously extend her reach and reduce transportation costs. With continued support from Zidisha, she will take active steps to more effectively serve her faithful clientele.

Read more about Combé Thiaw here.