by Rupert Scofield, FINCA President & CEO
FINCA Afghanistan Team
January 13, 2013
While the shooting war gets the headlines, there is another story unfolding in Afghanistan: a quiet tale of ordinary people going about their lives, building an economy from the bottom up. FINCA Afghanistan is playing a key role in this drama, I am proud to say. Each time I visit our program here, I come away infused with optimism and convinced that, despite all the challenges, Afghanistan is going to make it.
I met with our staff yesterday, which is headed by a dynamic American-Afghan woman who chose to leave a comfortable life and banking career in the U.S. to contribute to the recovery of her native country. She grew up during the era when Kabul was the “Paris of Central Asia” and is convinced those days can come again if people will just work together to achieve that dream.
The program she runs is a model of that philosophy. I asked her staff, who are almost all Afghans, to tell me one thing they like about working for FINCA. “I like the way we work as a team,” was the most frequent response. “I like FINCA because here our bosses listen to us,” said one of our regional managers. “I like helping the women grow their businesses,” one of our women credit officers told me. “With the income from their businesses they not only become less dependent on the men, but they also contribute to the income of their families.” Another of our female credit officers joked that she was helping women towards the day when none of them would depend on men for anything.
I also asked them what their greatest challenges were. While security was mentioned, most cited the usual constraints of running a program on a tight budget. We’re close to breaking even, so everyone is economizing where they can, even to the point of heating offices with wood stoves and electric heaters.
When you see what FINCA is achieving in Afghanistan — we have close to 20,000 clients now, $10 million in loans and an arrears rate of only 0.3% over 30 days — you can’t help but feel a happy outcome for this country is more than just a pipe dream. You see people of all the ethnic groups working together for the greater good, and proud of what they are accomplishing.
And after all, a company is just a country in microcosm, isn’t it?