By Taylor Akin, KF9, Togo
Picture yourself on a bike riding along a beach. Nice image, isn’t it?
Now, swap the bike for a motorcycle fishtailing in the sand and replace the crashing waves with revving engines and honking cars. Add dust in your eyes, the smell of exhaust in your nose, and about 30 degrees of heat and you’ve come close to the daily journey of a loan officer in Lomé, Togo.
I know I’m not the first to blog about the difficult trails a loan officer must travel every day. However, many of the blog posts that have come before have been set in rural areas. Lomé, on the other hand, is the capital city of Togo, and home to over 700,000 people. It is an industrial center, a trade center, a travel center, and pretty much the central city in this small country.
Yet, the infrastructure in Lomé makes it difficult to do any sort of inner-city travel at all. Many roads, quite literally, end. Paved roads filled with dangerous potholes inevitably give way to rocky cobble stone streets, which eventually transform into sandy dirt roads. Since the main method of transportation is by motorcycle, these routes can be extremely difficult to navigate.
Women and Associations for Gain both Economic and Social (WAGES) not only offers microloans, but provides savings, grants institutional support, and spearheads projects in rural areas of Togo. As a result, it is not just the loan officers who go door to door providing financial services. While WAGES employees need not go particularly far to visit their clients, it’s definitely not an easy journey.
Before last week, I thought that the ride to and from work was an adventure in and of itself. I would cling desperately to the seat of the motorcycle and try very hard not to look like the terrified “white” girl who was, in fact, clinging desperately to the seat of the motorcycle. After spending a few days visiting WAGES clients in the Lomé area, I now have a new found appreciation for the daily travels of WAGES employees.
Even when the road ends, ambassadors of microfinance persevere./>