by Jiten Patel

Trip to Ethiopia

Jul 24, 2010
IT Leadership

Trip to Ethiopia to meet with couple of microfinance institutions

A week ago undertook a trip to Addis Ababa, Ethiopia to meet with some of the MFIs based there. The primary goal of the trip was to meet with Wisdom Ethiopia, a World Vision affiliated MFI, to get their perspective on the core banking software that they are using. The secondary goal was to meet another MFI and to learn about their operational practices.

With me on this trip I had three key individuals from Friendship Bridge, CEO, CFO and Director of Credit & Operations. Friendship Bridge runs microfinance operations in Guatemala, and has its HQ in Denver, CO.

I thought I had a long trip, from NJ to Addis Ababa via Frankfurt until I learnt of the flight times of the two folks who came from Guatemala.

I found the people of Ethiopia warm and friendly, and very welcoming. We landed at night so did not get an opportunity to see anything on the short trip from the airport to the hotel. 

In the morning though one quickly realizes why Ethiopia churns out some of the world’s best middle and long distance runners. They are tall and skinny; everyone is tall and skinny, well almost everyone. Just food for thought, the only ones not skinny were at the airport, i.e. those that were either arriving and departing, and calling home some place other than Ethiopia. On the taxi ride from the hotel, one can see groups of runners in the park, of all ages and both sexes, exercising, stretching, sprinting. Walking long distances is way of life in this part of the world; and being at 7,546 ft above sea-level, means that they are accustomed to doing physical exercise in this rarefied air. Beautiful people.

The folks at Wisdom, from the CEO and down availed themselves, and provided very useful information about the system as well as about their operational practices.

The evening was spent at restaurant offering traditional food and music, which was the other highlight of the visit. Infrasoft staff, Prakash and Dinesh were wonderful hosts.

Next day visited Buusaa Gonofaa, a local MFI, with approx 38,000 credit (loan) customers. The senior staff  were extremely gracious with their time and information. An amazing organization that has cultivated a culture with both staff and customers, that takes loyalty to rarefied heights (no pun intended). MFIs and organizations in general need to learn from them.

Alas, the visit was over, had to take a flight the evening of the 2nd day.

Thank you Wisdom, Buusaa Gonofaa, Infrasoft, and overall thank you Ethiopia.