PN: What challenges or set-back do you face as a woman CEO?
RB: I learnt that to be a woman you can easily be discriminated against in the business arena. Therefore, the only way to demystify this, one has to be very headstrong and also really know what you want and believe that you will become that.
I also concentrate a lot on “women empowerment” especially in this environment where women are not expected to be visible in the business fraternity. I believe that as women we have a lot to offer to the economy much more than just waiting for men to go out hunting while we stay behind. Things are changing, the world is evolving and in order to keep up we need to also change our mindset as women and stop looking down ourselves and skills.
Well as for my own experience, I should say that being a woman in business is not so easy, especially as most men see our gender as way below them. I find that most men would rather be on the same level with another man rather than sit at the other side of my office desk and discuss “serious” business with a lady.
I should note though that a larger percentage of men are starting to realise the worth of respecting women in business as they realise that this is fast becoming the order of the day as more women are rising and taking up the challenge.
Because men and women are the complement of one another, we need women’s ideas in national affairs to make a safe and stable government.
PN: How far true is it that there is a “pull her down” syndrome among women, that is why there are few of you who hold influential positions in companies? Some say you are your own enemies.
RB: I think that it is because it has been the norm for women to look up only to men. It becomes a bit difficult for us to naturally appreciate another woman in a space that we deem to be for the male species. I think this is where the pulldown syndrome hovers but otherwise it seems also that a lot of women shy away from challenges and as a result end up staying in the background. The fastest way to change society for the better is to educate, empower and encourage women of the world.
PN: Why is the cost of money expensive in Zimbabwe?
RB: The supply and demand rule says that the more demand there is for a commodity, in this case being the money, then the more expensive it will be.
With the introduction of the multi-currency since February 2009, there has been a drastic change in the economy. This affected and impacted most on the banking sector as all deposits were zeroed.
They had to start all over again to build up their bases. This meant that the knock on effect would indeed hit on the lending arms which were out short. Even after realising certain levels of deposits and loan ratio of most banks was not quite up to par.
So as the need arose for more money on the market this definitely pushed up the price of the money, notwithstanding of course the fact that after going through a rough economic and political environment that included sanctions not much investment was channelled in our direction and this negatively impacted on our ability to access foreign currency easily. All these factors and others like forward lending all play their part in such expensive money in Zimbabwe.
PN: There are about 91 micro-finance companies in Zimbabwe. How has been their lending to SME’s?
RB: A lot of SME’s in Zimbabwe are grossly undercapitalised and generally still operating at about 10% of their overall capacity showing that over 90% of their businesses are in need of working capital for example in this case through micro finance as accessing loans from the banks is very tedious and their rules on collateral are very stringent and mostly only take in immovable collateral which most of the small business owners would not have.
Microfinance offers relaxed borrowing terms and more flexible ways to access loans and so it is my view that microfinance in Zimbabwe is vital.
PN: What are the major challenges the Micro-Finance companies are facing?
RB: Liquidity crisis is the sector’s major challenge, the other challenges are of default rates that are also hard to sustain for the microfinance companies.
PN: What do you want as collateral and what are your interest rates?
RB: We have brought innovativeness in terms of collateral. It was our realisation that most people in need of cash do not have immoveable collateral which is a prerequisite for most financial lending firms in the country. So we accept movable assets like cars, laptops, stoves and other household’s equivalent to the value of money that one wants. This move cautioned the average Zimbabwean in the wake of the liquidity crisis that characterised the country. Our interests rates vary depending on loan amounts and period of repayment. We have tried to peg our interest in line with prevailing local interest rates and the stipulates’ of local fiscal authorities. These rates have been decided in close collaboration with the Reserve Bank
PN: What is the link between Hamilton Finance and Hamilton Property?
RB: We have noted that a lot of distorted information has been circulating with regards to our relation with Hamilton Property Holdings. Initially these companies were related before their separation after the growth and expansion of Hamilton Finance. In essence, there is no relation what so ever between Hamilton Property Holdings and Hamilton Finance. These are separate business entities with a coincidental similarity in names.
PN: Who then is Frank Buyanga to you and why then deny the link between the two companies when Frank is reportedly establishing a company in South Africa and Swaziland under the Hamilton Finance brand? Is he not a shareholder in the company?
RB: Frank is a business associate who has nothing to do with Hamilton Finance? Recent media reports had nothing to do with Hamilton Finance, he is not a shareholder in Hamilton Finance
PN: How did you start the company?
RB: Hamilton Finance is the brain of child of a consortium of progressive Zimbabweans driven by the edge to assist emerging entrepreneurs. most of the funds were sourced from off- shore partners with an identical interest in economic development.
PN: Why is Hamilton Finance under probe by the Anti-corruption Commission and the central bank?
RB: Hamilton Finance has never been under any investigation, but Hamilton Properties was and the probe is now over and they were found to be innocent of any illegal transactions. I am sure you have been reading that in the media.
PN: What advice would you give to those who want to start a micro-finance company?
RB: They should research on the market, that is, how big it is, opportunities that lie ahead, challenges and major stumbling blocks. They should be interactive and understand the business of their customers.