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  • Agency Banking Approval Granted to WMI's Buyobo, Uganda Headquarters

  • New WMI Headquarters Office
  • Is Underway

  • Fifteenth Anniversary Video

  • 2022 Fact Book Reflects Program Impact

  • Tanzania Fellow Delivers WMI's Newest Supporter

  • New Loan Hub in Eldoret, Kenya Off to A Great Start

  • Girls Graduating from WMI’s Empowerment Groups Thrive

Country Updates:

Uganda. In mid-September Uganda reported several cases of Ebola in the Mubende area in the west of the country. Since that time it has spread to seven other regions and three weeks ago the first cases were reported in Kampala. 

More than 130 cases have been identified and 50 people have died. The government has imposed a lock down in two areas that restricts more than 400,000 people to their homes. The World Health Organization is concerned that the disease could spread to neighboring countries and the UN is helping prepare rapid response teams in Kenya, Rwanda and South Sudan.

This is the Sudan strain of Ebola which is different that the Zaire strain which ravaged Sierra Leone and other West African countries in 2015, and for which an effective vaccine was subsequently developed.  There is no vaccine for the Sudan strain although discussions are being held to implement trials of vaccines that are in development.

Kenya. Parts of the country are now on track for a fifth failed rainy season in a row. Last month the country hit an inflation rate of over 8%. Yet at the same time the government terminated the maize subsidy program that helped millers lower the price of maize sold to poor household and was a lifeline for many families. The price of maize has since doubled.

Tanzania. Inflation in Tanzania reached 4.5% in September and spurred the central bank to reduce liquidity in the economy. Concerned that the cost of food and essentials was spiraling too quickly the government took action to try to protect marginalized families from slipping into food insecurity. Tourism, one of the country’s biggest industries, has seen a significant rebound which is good news for families in the WMI loan program as almost every household has immediate or extended family members involved in some aspect of the tourist trade. 

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Agency Banking Approval Granted to WMI's Buyobo, Uganda Headquarters

In a very exciting development that will help secure the future of the WMI loan program and expand financial services to village families, our Buyobo, Uganda loan hub has been approved by the government to offer Agency Banking services. This is a significant leap forward in the loan program’s ability to generate income to fund new loans and to offer more financial services in rural areas.

The areas where WMI works still operate primarily on a cash economy and banks typically operate only in the larger towns and cities, which makes accessing them difficult for villagers as utilizing public transport is time-consuming and expensive. Although mobile money is making some headway, rural villagers still primarily use cash at local markets and for local business transactions. Rural families typically keep cash from any business operations at home until they can make a trip to the bank in town – which usually happens once a week. Additionally, families that operate seasonal businesses must access cash they had previously deposited to pay routine household expenses and that also means multiple trips to the bank in town.

Building rural bank branches is expensive. The cost of construction plus maintaining and supervising a trained local staff is very high on a cost/benefit basis. The governments in East Africa recognized this problem and to encourage banks to extend financial services in rural areas, they implemented an Agency Banking system. Certified organizations that pass a government due diligence review and that have suitable physical premises may be licensed to establish rural outposts where they can take deposits and issue withdrawals to existing bank customers as well as open accounts for new customers. Agency Banking utilizes a universal technology platform adopted by the government and a standardized terminal that is installed at the Agent’s rural location. Agents can handle transactions for customers of any licensed bank in the country and the Agent receives a small fee on every transaction conducted.


Existing loan program staff members are being trained on how to comply with applicable regulations and operate the banking terminal. Once we begin to offer Agency Banking services, the loan program will earn a small fee for each transaction we handle, including all of WMI’s substantial transactions related to loan collection.

Word of WMI’s new Agency Banking authorization is already spreading throughout the community. Institutions such as the primary school are reaching out to our local leadership to discuss how they can utilize our Agency Banking services to handle the significant administrative burden of paying teachers’ salaries (which is all done electronically).

With our background in rural lending, WMI has the experienced local staff to be able provide basic banking services to village families. The on-going operational costs of staff salaries, maintenance, auditing, and insurance will be covered by transaction income. We anticipate that the Agency Banking operations will to be cash-flow positive within months and then generate significant income for the loan program, thus helping secure our future operations.

New Headquarters Office/Agency Banking Building Going Up

At the same time we were handling the Agency Banking qualification process, we began brainstorming the problem of insufficient office space. We have outgrown our four-room headquarters office (at left) which was built back in 2009 when there were 250 borrowers in the Buyobo area (now there are over 2,500). The quandary of cramped offices then took on increased urgency when the government notified us that the front half of our building was being condemned to widen the main road through Buyobo, which runs right out front. The search for suitable land on which to construct was on!

Land is at a premium in Uganda due to the burgeoning population and the shrinking size of plots as they are divided up among heirs. Additionally, rural households farm these small plots to grow food that is a critical part of their daily meals. The new office building location also had to be close to our existing compound with our 500-seat pavilion where thousands of ladies meet to conduct loan activities. Though our office building is being taken our pavilion (at left) is unaffected by the road widening.

With the planned addition of Agency Banking, the location also had to be easily accessible to the public. After investigating the available options we came up empty-handed. Then serendipity struck. Next to our compound and fronting on an artery off the main road, a dilapidated and boarded up Sub-County meeting hall (at left) was falling apart but was nevertheless still utilized. In a fortuitous case of divine timing, the government condemned it as unsafe and demolished it. 

Our local team jumped to begin negotiations with the Sub-County to have the plot allocated to us to build a new office. Our contractor surveyed the land and walked through potential designs that would fit the plot of land and suit our needs. After a year of negotiations, a final Memorandum of Understanding with the government is now being circulated and we expect to begin construction by the end of the year. The picture at left shows how close the is to our compound fence.

The land is easily accessible from a dirt track that feeds into the main road through Buyobo (at left). It is in the business center of the town, surrounded by shops and food stalls. The road to the primary school and several churches runs alongside the plot. Open community land borders one side. Hundreds of villagers now conduct business with the PostBank van that parks at our compound every two weeks on our loan collections days, we envision transforming them into Agency Banking customers.

The two-story design (at left) is required to fit the plot of land. Visiting banking facilities to learn about ways to accommodate the new customers, our local team included a second story verandah to overhang the teller windows and provide shade for customers waiting in line.

The floor plan will accommodate Agency Banking and Mobile Money teller windows at one end, WMI offices on the ground floor and trade school classrooms on the second floor, as well as an office for our sister non-profit, the Buyobo Community Development Association. We are convinced that this is the next critical step we need to take to lock in a reliable source of income to fund continued loan program expansion, to support the ladies in the loan program by improving our back office operations, to offer trade school courses to chronically unemployed youth, and to provide basic financial services to the community at an easily accessible village location. 

This is the largest construction project WMI has undertaken to date. It is daunting and exhilarating at the same time. We feel confident that with our contractor of the past ten years, Sam Wesomoyo, at our side overseeing the project, and with our crack local staff managing government relations and fly-specking construction progress on a daily basis, we will successfully complete the new office construction by next Spring. 

WMI’s Fifteenth Anniversary Video

Fifteen years ago WMI was built on empowering impoverished women to take control financially and socially. That dream is being realized each day by tens of thousands of women in rural East Africa who have been a part of the WMI loan program. Created by our college interns, our new three-minute video WMI:15 Years and 15 Changes presents first-hand accounts of how WMI has had a lasting impact on reducing poverty and empowering village women in rural East Africa. 15th Anniversary Video.

2022 Fact Book Reflects Loan Program Impact

WMI's dedicated college interns completed an analysis of borrower 3,839 surveys, to create this year's Fact Book. It provides fascinating insights into the lives of the rural women we serve and documents just how profoundly the loan program disrupts the cycle of poverty.

The most significant impact of the loan program is the increase in monthly income. An increase in income is the driver for all other household improvements. Monthly incomes increased from an average of $32 to $105. This is a 328% increase over two years!  


Check out the Fact Book - see how the investments you have made in WMI have nurtured resilient and successful rural businesswomen who now provide for themselves and their families. 2022 Fact Book.

Tanzania Fellow Delivers the Newest WMI Supporter

Jane Masila, WMI’s extremely competent and much beloved fellow at our Karatu, Tanzania loan hub, gave birth to a baby girl, Delice (at right), in October. Mother and daughter are doing very well. Jane started with WMI in 2020 and in nearly three years has helped oversee unprecedented expansion of loan program services to new villages surrounding our Tanzania headquarters in Tloma, near the town or Karatu. 

Holding a Bachelor of Accountancy Degree from the Institute of Accountancy in Arusha, Jane is our first native Tanzanian to occupy the fellow position. With a gift for organization and attention to financial detail, Jane has helped our local loan hub leaders plan for growth in a measured and orderly way, giving due consideration to the location of new sub-hubs and the logistical problems presented by poor roads, lack of transport and distances to markets. Setting clear guidelines, convening regular loan group meetings, holding borrowers accountable, and providing skills training follow-up had resulted in a nearly perfect 100% repayment rate for this loan hub.

The chart below reflects when each new village loan group joined the Karatu Loan Hub. Since Jane added her management skills to the team, the number of sub-hub village locations has more than doubled! We are fortunate to have such talented and dedicated local staff supporting the village women of Karatu. 

WMI’s Eldoret, Kenya Loan Hub Is Off to A Great Start

Having received their training earlier this summer from the experienced team at our Buyobo, Uganda headquarters who traveled to Eldoret, the first twenty women at this new loan hub received their loans in August (Blue Group) followed by twenty more who received loans in September (Red Group). The September and October repayments due for both groups have been paid.

Women in the area are extremely grateful for the loans and training. Eldoret is primarily a food growing region and many of the women needed the loans for seeds and agricultural inputs to maximize their yields. Everlyne Cherobon, the head administrator, reported that:

1.Visits were made on a weekly basis and most of the women visited were found to be doing their businesses as promised except for a few who changed their business plan. They changed because the first plan did not work out and we were comfortable with developing a new plan.

2. They are striving to put into practice the business skills they learned especially record keeping. A few were found not to be keeping records. Their explanation was that they could not find the time to do so because they are overwhelmed by responsibilities of housekeeping, caring for school going children, doing business, and serving the needs of their husbands. We plan to conduct a record-keeping re-training workshop.

3. Overall, the women are happy and grateful and doing their best.

Girls Graduating from WMI’s Empowerment Groups Continue to Thrive

In partnership with Rukundo International, an NGO operating in Kyanamira, a small rural community in the Kabale District of Southwest Uganda, WMI supports Girls Empowerment Groups to teach elementary school girls business skills and help them launch an entrepreneurship project. 

Merub, Christine and Shallot are three young ladies who have graduated from the program. With the skills they have learned and their own hard work and savvy they are continuing to build their rural businesses. From raising rabbits to breeding pigs to basket-making, they are busy with record-keeping and tending to their business assets. The girls’ families are proud of their determination and support their own-going ventures. WMI believes training girls to be entrepreneurs will provide them with valuable skills that will help them find a road out of poverty as they become young women and in the years to come start families of their own.

WMI is extremely grateful to our donors - you make WMI's work possible. Thank you for your thoughtfulness in supporting WMI's program to empower rural women and families in East Africa. The pandemic had already created new challenges for rural businesswomen and now the war in Ukraine is driving the cost of food and fuel sky high, which disproportionately impacts lower-income families. Despite these challenges, WMI continues to provide loans, training and resources during this growing global crisis. Your support is truly a lifeline - you are making a difference in reducing global poverty and improving outcomes for thousands of rural households in East Africa.


The WMI Board of Directors 

 Robyn Nietert   Betsy Gordon  Deborah Smith  Jane Erickson 
   Terry Ciccotelli   Trix Vandervossen  June Kyakobye 
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