Small loans close big gaps in Zimbabwe

Small loans close big gaps in Zimbabwe

Ethel Mupambwa founded a microfinance institution to fight gender inequality and ventured into providing renewable energy solutions to address financial exclusion.

Ethel Mupambwa, Moneymart
Third prize, Best growth-oriented business

Ethel Mupambwa grew up in rural Zimbabwe, and she always knew.

“Change is going to come through me,” she said. “If not me, then who?”

She teamed up with her business partner, Wallesa Nyawo, to found Moneymart, a young microfinance institution. Their shared belief in the power of sustainable financial solutions to positively transform people’s lives brought their business to fruition.

Moneymart is a private money-lending institution registered by the Reserve Bank of Zimbabwe since 2014.

At first, Moneymart focused on providing small loans—around $50—to female entrepreneurs with little to no credit history.

“As we progressed as an organization, we said: What other exclusion exists out there that we can fight?” Wallesa said. “Yes, we are fighting financial exclusion, we are fighting gender inequality. What else can we do?”

So, they expanded. In 2018, Moneymart started distributing Sustainable, Modern, Affordable, Reliable, and Technologically-driven (SMART) energy solutions to rural areas on credit. Ethel and her team focus on communities experiencing financial exclusion, especially those without any electricity at all.

Moneymart branches opened in rural places, and the institution began providing affordable loans specifically for solar home systems. 

“Over 60% of the Zimbabwean population lives in rural areas, and 80% of those households do not have access to electricity,” Wallesa said. “You’re looking at a market of close to four million households.”

As the team faces issues of accessibility due to aging infrastructure, in addition to financial limitations, Wallesa identified the ILO’s Green enterPRIZE Innovation Challenge as a positive source of support. They found out about it on Twitter.

“We thought, we are the right candidates,” Ethel said. “This competition aligns with our vision.”

The ILO created this business competition to help entrepreneurs from Zimbabwe develop their green and growth-oriented businesses. Since its first edition, local business development service providers have been assisting in the project implementation.

Winners and runners-up gain either financial or capacity-building services, or both, for their small- and medium-sized businesses.

As the third-prize winners in the “best growth-oriented business” category, Ethel and her team earned 12 months of business development services.

“We were so glad to be listed among the growth-oriented organizations,” Ethel said. “We really are growing, and we want to go fully green.”

Ethel appreciated the ILO’s help with team development. In just four years, her original team of three has expanded to more than 30 employees. Most are young women that start working straight after graduation.

“This was the best prize for us,” she said. “To change the mindset of the team, so they see that there is a bigger picture.”

July 10, 2019