This week, Opportunity announces the launch of its Tanzanian clients on OptINnow.org. AJ Renold, our multimedia YAO reporter on the ground with Opportunity Tanzania, had the opportunity to travel to Arusha in March to attend the opening ceremony for its flagship bank branch, and he shares with us the story of this significant event…
Thursday, March 25th was the opening ceremony of Opportunity Tanzania’s flagship Arusha branch. Opportunity Tanzania chairman of the board and the Arusha regional commissioner cut the tape to officially open the branch for business.
To join the opening celebration, I had decided it would be an adventure to take the bus from Dar es Salaam to Arusha, rather than the short airplane flight there. I was surprised to hear that the bus trip takes up to 12 hours. The two-hour flight makes the distance seem deceptively short! After a full day of travel — thankfully, on paved roads — I have now confirmed that the trip does in fact take 12 hours, especially if there is rain. I finally arrived in Arusha at 9:00 p.m. and wearily found my hotel.
Early the next morning, refreshed after a night’s rest, I went to the location of our Arusha branch, the Summit Center. Before the ceremony even began, the excitement among the branch staff and loan officers was evident. They were all dressed in their Opportunity Tanzania polo shirts, and they were having a lot of fun taking pictures of each other and of me.
A few loan officers were doing prep work for the day, as their morning Trust Group meetings had been postponed until the afternoon. This was not a problem for their Trust Groups, because the chairpersons, or group leaders, from each of these groups were invited to join us for opening ceremony!
Very soon, clients and other guests, including journalists from Tanzanian newspapers, started to arrive and the ceremony began. As we were about to begin, the Arusha Regional Commissioner, the Honorable Isidore Shirima, arrived and was greeted by Opportunity Tanzania CEO Peter Olivier and Opportunity Tanzania Chairman of the Board Francis Pelekamoyo.
The Arusha branch manager David Makanza began by welcoming guests and introducing the rest of the morning’s speakers. Peter Olivier, Francis Pelekamoyo, and finally, the guest of honor Isidore Shirima all gave memorable speeches. Peter noted the hard work that was undertaken by many people to complete the branch. Francis shared his vision for Opportunity Tanzania and explained the background of Opportunity International to the Regional Commissioner. Last but not least, Isidore Shirima gave a great speech partly in Swahili and partly in English. He kept staff and clients laughing and included enough English for those who couldn’t understand the Swahili. He concluded by praising Opportunity’s work in Tanzania. He said, “Opportunity Tanzania is a transformational enabler for Tanzania to move from a subsistence economy to a commercial economy.” After the regional commissioner’s speech, the tape was cut and the Arusha branch officially opened.
Before this opening, Opportunity Tanzania had been serving clients in Arusha from a temporary location for over six months. The branch currently serves over 1,000 active borrowers and is growing quickly, making over 100 loans each week. The new branch location meets Bank of Tanzania standards to offer savings products to clients, a product which Opportunity Tanzania expects to launch later this year.
I am excited that the Arusha branch is now officially open for business and I look forward to continuing to work with Arusha’s clients in the coming months.