Two weeks ago, I had the opportunity to have lunch with Vida Marfo of Opportunity International. She is the Regional Head of Small/Medium Enterprise (SME) and a Manager for Property Folios at Opportunity Ghana.
Vida was kind enough to do an interview with me so I could share what I learned from her with all of you!
Elizabeth Knox: Tell me about a loan client who has shown great growth.
Vida Marfo: We had one client named Mary Addo. Her husband passed away and her brother-in-law told her she could either marry him, or move out of the house. She and her four children moved out of the house. She was working at a friend’s restaurant, and one day she finally walked into the Opportunity International office that she saw every day on her way to work. She joined a Trust Group and took out a loan for $20 to start a vegetable stand. She was able to repay that loan, and then she took out bigger loans and repaid them. Now she has a clothing store. She is able to pay for all of her children to go to school.
Elizabeth: One of the things I love about Opportunity is that they try to address the needs of their clients beyond just microcredit. What are some ways you’ve been able to address other needs of your loan customers?
Vida: There are so many ways. I’ll tell you two:
- We use the time at Trust Group meetings (once per week for 16 weeks) to address needs beyond financial literacy. Women ask for help learning customer service skills, or learning about property management. Women have also raised health concerns and we have started screening for breast cancer at their Trust Groups.
- Our clients also need help with home improvements–they want electricity or a toilet installed. We have the capacity to finance the improvements, but we don’t have the expertise to help them with the actual repairs or renovations. But Habitat for Humanity does; they have a good network of builders and repairmen, people they trust. Together, Opportunity and Habitat for Humanity are making client’s homes safer and more stable.
Elizabeth: What’s the next big thing in microfinance?
Vida: People are asking for “micro-pensions.” Many of our clients want to start saving for when they won’t be able to work any longer. We have started offering retirement accounts. [Note to the US reader: think 401K, rather than company-sponsored pension.]
Elizabeth: Tell us a little more about yourself, what do you like to do in your free time?
Vida: I have three children, so they keep me busy. I really enjoy chess, and I am the head of the Professional Ladies Association at my church, where we mentor the young women who are coming up. We coach them on business skills, practical skills, relationships with men, and family skills.
Thank you, Vida, for your time! And for all you do to make Opportunity International successful in Ghana.