The Zimbabwe Association of Microfinance Institutions (Zamfi) successfully held its inaugural excellence and appreciation awards during which torch bearers in the sector were honoured.
Speaking at the event, Zamfi board chair Virginia Sibanda said the occassion was a combination of an awards ceremony and an appreciation to organisations that have helped keep Zamfi operational despite the challenges.
“The essence of the evening is honouring the torch bearers, microfinance actors who have a never dying spirit and individuals who believed in ensuring that the sector remained relevant on the Zimbabwe landscape.
“We are honouring all past Zamfi chairpersons who worked tirelessly with their other board members to ensure that the association endured. Each board member had to deal with different problems but each one of them did not lose the vision of the association,” she said.
Sibanda added that they were also honouring some members who have gone out of their way to financially support Zamfi at a time when financial resources were limited.
“We are honouring the unsung heroes/heroines in poverty alleviation and financial inclusion — yourselves. We are telling our story which is crucial in achieving financial inclusion, thereby providing financial freedom to improve safety nets in communities,” she said.
Unlike in other countries where there has been substantial support for non-profit grassroot financial institutions which have morphed into large organisations, Zimbabwean players have had to innovate under very trying circumstances.
Sibanda said the event was an excellent opportunity to let the country know of the work that the microfinance institutions are doing and contributing to the agenda of financial inclusion.
She commended the Reserve Bank of Zimbabwe which has played a pivotal role through making microfinance one of the pillars of financial inclusion. This has placed the sector on a good footing and its image has been enhanced in the process.
Microfinance plays a pivotal in poverty alleviation and, through the provision of tailor made products, it has the ability to stimulate economic empowerment, especially among underprivileged members of society such as women, youth, and rural smallholder farmers and, of course, men.
“We need to be careful not to sideline the men in our society and push forward the notion that only women can make the change. We need both women and men to work together with respect of one another to effect the change. We cannot afford to ignore 50% of the population on either side,” said Sibanda.
The micro finance sector is striving to achieve economic empowerment which means easier access to funding, ability to accumulate assets, having better eating habits and access to markets for trading of products and services and generally having the freedom to choose.
“The excluded, or unbanked or financially excluded particularly face significant barriers to achieving sustained increases in income and improving their status. They require complementary support in other areas, such as training in business skills like marketing, finance, financial literacy to mention but a few,” she said.
Sibanda said they were looking at the sector building financing models that are replicable and that at some point Zimbabwe will also excel in terms of innovation through microfinance interventions.
Speaking on the awards, she said honouring excellence and honouring past and present champions on the microfinance landscape is a clear signal that they appreciated all the players that have been making a difference by providing financial solutions to the previously unbanked people. .
“Allow me to mention that the struggle against poverty in the world is real and this struggle can divide individuals along political and economic lines.
However what everyone in this room is thriving to do is to ensure that we do not leave too many people behind.
“Whatever our own circumstances, let us remember that roughly half the world’s people live on less than two dollars a day, and more than one billion live on less than one dollar a day, which is extreme poverty,” said Sibanda.
She explained that the majority of people on earth are poor. This group she said was largely made up of women and children.
“This may be the greatest challenge confronting the world over the next few decades. Talking about challenges. Let me quote from one of the finest and brightest American statesmen – Benjamin Franklin. He had this to say:
I am for doing good to the poor, but I differ in opinion about the means. I think the best way of doing good to the poor is not making them easy in poverty, but leading or driving them out of it.
Sibanda told the delegates that the microfinance sector in Zimbabwe is precisely dedicated to doing the best it can in leading and driving people out of poverty into economic prosperity in line with the government vision for attaining middle income status by 2030.
In her closing remarks she expressed gratitude to the Zamfi Executive Director, Godfrey Chitambo and his team for his tireless hard work behind the scenes in making sure this event happened.
She also paid tribute to the following:
The Ministry of Finance and the RBZ for providing the platform for the sector to be relevant.
The Organizing Committee and the judges of this event who worked tirelessly on a pro bono basis.
The journalists who brought the stories of microfinance interventions to life with their story telling abilities.
The auditors who ensured transparency in the whole process
The previous board members who conceived the idea and to the current board members for their vision and support and grit.
The nominees who made the awards a reality and worthwhile
The consumers of our financial products
All of you who have sacrificed other commitments to be here with us today
The registered MFIs in the country that are shaping the financial landscape for their commitment to make a change.
All the behind the scenes players too numerous to mention
And of course the Master of Ceremony.
“Zimbabweans have gone through difficult moments but Ubuntu/Hunhu has carried us through. We are thankful to the Lord and the resilience of the Zimbabwean Nation at large ……we are here tonight,”