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The emergence of COVID-19 and its unprecedented spread at a unique and alarming speed has caused so much confusion and worries thereby shrouding our thoughts on how best,in the circumstances to effectively or reasonably minimize the impact.
Some of the third world countries,wondered aloud to the "effect that if same has ravaged the very developed world to that extent, then who are we to survive"?
Due to its spread in such an invisible manner and with an apparent high voltage speed, it therefore calls for very sober/cool approach and incisive look at it so that plauseable measures could be speedily explored thereby helping in identifying pathway measures.
However, as it ravaged various countries ferociously, each country was busy trying in whatever method to combat the spread and subsequent impact. It is noteworthy that various governments,agencies,WHO,research scientists,philanthropic foundations globally, among others have done admirably well in the dissemination of information coupled with well intended measures on the combat as much as it has been overwhelming. The efforts need to be rigorous and continually pursued relentlessly as it is happening.currently.
We, at Star Credit Limited,the micro finance institution in Kenya, based in Kisumu city in Western Kenya region whose areas of focus is the low income/poor in deep rural areas and peri-urban localities, and with considerable support to the small holder farmers beside the other small/medium traders, we had to give the issue a very surgical re look in terms of our clients whose saving culture level would dwindle, loanees having almost near impossible leeway to be repaying their loans let alone within the timelines,being unable to disburse top up loans where possible/appropriate, inability to disburse new loans,inability to obtain fresh funding sources to reasonably sustain the operations and potential expansion among others.
Then came the Kenya government regular pronouncements that subsequently lead to partial lock down and daily curfew from 7pm to 5am!
As a Board we decided to be in touch with virtually ALL our clients via telephone calls,WhatsApp where it worked, SMSes,and visits at various centers where we could meet various group members and individual account holders at our expense.
At these meeting points/communication outlets, we were in a position to fully explain to our clients on the unprecedented challenge we faced as an institution as same was a global issue. Before we could suggest our proposals, we had sought their views/thoughts as we would equally respond thereafter. It was an amazingly and magical experience, as some could not believe our approach!
As Star Credit Limited, we emphasized to them that our being in business and fully operational and sustainable was due to their unwavering support.
After ensuring we had reached at least 80% of our clientele we adopted the following measures that eventually communicated to them:
That for the next three months from the month of April 2020, there shall be no penalties levied on the loan repayments as they fall due,however, a client was at liberty to repay per their ability. During the three months period, in the event a client is unable to repay the loan, no action would be taken, but to remain in constant conversation with our office.
We urged the clients who wished to reschedule their current loans to feel free and put on the table proposals they considered fair and appropriate for joint discussion and agreement.
We resolved to be having monthly reviews by the end of the first week of each subsequent month as long as the pandemic period would still be in place and clients encouraged to boost their savings for future higher loans, in case one was in a position to.
That we HAVE NO INTENTION AS AN INSTITUTION to have loan set off against the share savings that have been used as surety. Closure of any account shall be be per client independent decision.
It was emphasized to be very alert on the regular pronouncements by the government, as same would help us plan and work harmoniously.
Most of our clients,who are the small holder farmers found the impact of this pandemic as an opportunity to intensify the farming activities given the availability of food was critical for sale to feed the ever increasing demand beside anchoring the food security segment in perspective. Since as Star Credit Limited, we had from inception ever supported our clients through funding, we also have in our system/operation whereby we link our client farmers with the markets/consumers such as hotels,clubs,hospitals,schools, care centers, general traders/business persons, who purchase their almost when still fresh given their perishable nature. Most of rural areas have no or reliable preservative facilities, poor infrastructure notwithstanding. It is a system whereby the farmers "bank their produce".
We have equally been striving to date,to obtain funding support on reasonable terms and other potential collaborators even though it is also a challenge. We equally hope the Kenya government put in place measures that would cushion the economy despite the biting challenges.
It is a gigantic challenge ,but it require a lot of resilience, focus,pro activeness, innovation and fully embracing digital platform to the full through appropriate upgrades.
Whereas potential funders/collaborators may not currently come handy, we still need to remain hopeful as what may look now impossible, become an amazing possibility.
At Star Credit Limited(www.starcreditltd.com), we have faith,hope and wish to continue exploring every possible opportunity to minimize the negative impact to our people/client and by extension, mankind.
Let us ALL be the BROTHER'S/SISTER'S KEEPER!
Samuel Okelo Deya
Star Credit Limited