New Loans Provided to Eighty Women Entrepreneurs in Zambia

As a result of the generosity of donors, we were able to provide new loans to 80 women entrepreneurs last month. These women completed business training in early September and each one started a new business. The businesses are quite diverse: about half sell grocery items, including cooking oil, rice, sugar, eggs, fruits, vegetables, beans, and the Zambian staple dish of mealie meal. Other businesses sell dressed chicken and dried fish, as well as a variety of non-food items like charcoal, baby blankets, clothes, shoes, and books. One of the entrepreneurs, Edith Makoni, owned a hair dryer machine, so she opened a hair salon. She used the Power of Love loan to rent space in the marketplace and to purchase necessary supplies and materials like combs and cosmetics. Many of the businesses share a common model: the women buy food and other goods in bulk, often traveling by bus to the City Market in Lusaka, then repackage and sell the items in smaller quantities desired by consumers in their communities. These businesses improve the quality of life in their communities by making a wider variety of goods and services available to consumers closer home in quantities and at prices they can afford.

These loans will go a long way toward helping the women entrepreneurs provide for their families and take the first steps towards self-reliance. At this time, 70% of the women are single or widowed and 50% are dependent on their husband or relatives for household expenses. On average, each woman cares for 5 or more people at home, primarily children. Our goal is to help these women learn how to run a business so they can pay for school expenses and keep their children in school.

We will be tracking these businesses to study how they evolve as the women progress from their first loans to their second and third loan cycles. Our past experience with community lending suggests that as the women move through their loan cycles, they are able to increase the number and variety of items they sell, add higher value items, increase their store size, move to better locations, and improve the design and display of their stores. Power of Love has historically achieved a repayment rate on loans of between 90 and 95%, and we expect that trend to continue with these new loans.