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ANNUAL PROGRAMME REPORT

GAMBIA WOMENS FINANCE ASSOCIATION

 

 

INTRODUCTION

The year under review was one of evaluation of operational systems and procedures, and development of strategies for scaling up, increased impact and sustainability.

GAWFA continued to provide services to its clientele in the rural and urban areas. It continued to network with other national, regional and international development organisations. GAWFA also continued to advocate for women, for microenterprise development and for microfinance operations.

The Association experienced a number of constraints and obstacles which affected its programme performance. Key among these was to secure external funding for the operational expenses.

It was, overall, a year of challenges.

1. CREDIT PROGRAMME

 

1.1 The loans to groups continued to increased during the year. In 1996/97 44 loans were made to groups as compared to 73 in 1997/98. This represent a 66% increase over the previous year. This also resulted in an increase in the average loan sizes, from D2,320 to D5,178 as group loan sizes tend to be larger than individual loans. Group loans were used both for redistribution among members of the group as well as to finance communal activities.

1.2 Lending for agricultural activities also increased as a result of a greater number of groups in the URD qualifying for loans. This is in line with GAWFA’s strategy to increase lending to the sector as a means of diversifying its portfolio, reaching poorer women who are unable to engage in off-farm income generating activities and contributing to food security. It is interesting to note that more clients borrow for agricultural activities in the URD than in any of GAWFA’s other operational areas, primarily to procure inputs and small implements for vegetable gardening, sheep rearing and farming.

1.3 In spite of the increase in lending to the agricultural sector, the commercial sector remained the predominant activity among GAWFA’s clients, capturing 63% of the amount of loans disbursed during the year and 61% of the number of loans. The agricultual sector, at second place, captured 25% of the amount disbursed and 30% of the number of loans disburse.

1.4 LRD/URD remained the area with the lowest rate of loan activity and client intake during the year. This could be attributed to the inexperience of the Credit Assistant who was servicing the area while Mrs Haddy Mboge was away in Cameroon undergoing a training course, and also inadequate means of reaching the clients.

1.5 The group lending approach proved to be the main channel for reaching those women who are too poor to meet the savings precondition for borrowing. By saving as collective body, they would be able to meet the requirements, hence be able to access loans, either for individual activities or for common purpose.

1.6 The Association still continued to grant loans with grace periods for agricultural loans and loans for the procurement of agricultural produce at the time of harvest to be sold during the lean months, the latter being a favourite activity of women in the NBD. The policy was adopted in response to clients’ appeal that monthly payment of loans, particularly in the rainy season, created repayment difficulties for them.

1.7 Interest on loans remained at 25% per annum or 2.09% per month. This rate proved to be acceptable to most borrowers especially because loan sizes are small and repayment periods short. Informal interviews conducted with women’s groups revealed that they charge higher interest in the informal lending services they provide for their members, where rates could be as high as 10% per month. Some groups increase the interest rate when they borrow to onlend to their members.

Please refer to table - loan disbursement summary for more details.

 

2. SAVINGS

2.1 The savings mobilisation programme continued to attract new savers. 228 new accounts were opened during the year, with 26% of new accounts belonging to groups and more than 75% from the Greater Banjul area. Lower River Division had the least number of new accounts.

2.2 The total amount of deposits collected was D652,079.00, up by 54% from 1996/97. Again, Greater Banjul topped the list with more than 59% of the amount of collections, followed by Western Division. The least amount of savings was collected from Lower River Division.

2.3 The rate of savings decreased significantly in the rural areas during the rainy season. Only groups that were engaged in off-farm income generating activities were able to maintain their savings.

2.4 A large percentage of borrowers used their savings to service their loans by way of direct transfers. The highest withdrawal rates occurred during feasts such as Tobaski and Ramadan and at the time when the school year begins.

2.5 Interest rate on savings remained at 8% per annum during the year, paid twice a year.

2.6 At June 30, the cumulative total savings collected since the beginning of the programme in April 1994 was D1,075,000. The total number of accounts was 1170 representing 11,700 clients. The end-of-year balance was D727,520, 68% more than the balance for 1996/97.

3.BUSINESS DEVELOPMENT AND TECHNICAL ASSISTANCE

3.1 The SED activities of the Association was suspended during the year due primarily to lack of funds. The VSO volunteer, who was also SED Officer, assignment with GAWFA came to end in April, 1998.

3.2 Technical assistance continued to be provided to clients during client visits and in the office. Topics covered included advice on business diversification, business planning, advertisement strategies, market opportunities and pricing of products.

4. INFORMATION, EDUCATION, COMMUNICATION

4.1 The Central Bank of The Gambia granted a licence to GAWFA to operate as a Savings and Credit Company. I am proud to say that GAWFA is the only licence organisation to operate as a microfinance company in The Gambia. This has given the Association greater credibility both locally and internationally.

5. PERSONNEL DEVELOPMENT

 

5.1 Credit and Administrative staff continued upgrading their computer skills with assistance from the Small Enterprise Development Officer. The training focussed on skills for word processing and spreadsheet operations.

5.2 A Finance and Adminstrative Manager and three savings and Credit Assistants were recruited during the period.

 

5.3 Staff and Board members participated in in-house workshops in financial and credit management facilitated by WWB. The workshops focussed on portfolio projections, budgeting, performance indicators, credit methodologies and portfolio management. The workshops also included sessions on assessment of GAWFA’s outreach activities, performance and constraints in scaling up. The training should enhance staff output and effectiveness.

5.4 GAWFA was represented at the African Regional Microfinance Practitioners Network Meetings by the General Manager, Mrs Mariama Ashcroft, in Addis Ababa in Febuary and by the Mr M M Jarboh in Abidjan, Ivory Coast in August. The theme for the meetings was "How to build successful National Networks", as well as a Regional Network. GAWFA’s participation was financed by UNDP and WWB.

5.5 Mrs Haddy Mboge, Savings and Credit Officer complelted a nine months Diploma programme in Integrated Rural Development in PAID/WA Cameroon. She has since assumed her responsibilities in URD/LRD.

5.6 At the Beginning of July this year the longest servicing General Manager of the Association, Mrs Mariama Ashcroft, joined the Women’s World Banking in New york as a Relationship Manager for Africa.During her dynamic leadership the Association has made significant achiements. Notable amongs this are obtaining a licence for the Association from the Central Bank of The Gambia and the construction of the Associations Head Office.

 

5.7 Staff attended workshops organised by TANGO and other government and non-governmental organisations. Staff also attended workshops, meetings and conferences abroad.

6. ORGANISATIONAL ACTIVITIES

6.1 The Board of Directors organised a two days retreat aimed at providing an opportunity to evaluate existing policies and practices and formulating new policies reflecting the changing status and expectations of GWFA.

6.2 As 30th June the following were at GAWFA’s Board

Mrs. Catherine Goswell    Chairperson
Mrs. Betty Saine                Vice Chairperson
Mrs. Oley Dibba                  Treasurer
Mrs. Yassin Sey                  Legal Advisor
Mrs. Laura Thorpe
Mrs. Winifred Forster
Mrs. Agnes Bruce    representing MGHS Ex-Pupils
Mrs. Sarah Grey Johnson    representing YWCA
Ms. Aminatta Dibba
Mrs. Adele Sock
Mr. Wilmot John

6.3 GAWFA celebrated its 10th year anniversary, which was acclaimed a success in term of improved public awareness of the Association, although not much was raised in terms of funds.

6.4 AS part of its 10th year anniversary GAWFA hosted the WWB Africa Regional Meeting from 27th - 30th October, 1997.

6.5 The Finance and Loans Committees met to appraise loan requests of more than D5,000, and to review GAWFA’s financial reports.

 

7 RESOURCE MOBILISATION AND MANAGEMENT

7.1 Interest on loans and investments, membership registration fees and annual subscriptions continued to be an ongoing source of funds for investment and operations. 51% of total income generated during the year came from internal sources, the balance was obtained from reserves built over the years. There was no grants and donors during the year.

7.2 Deposits mobilised were invested in Treasury bills to yield higher interest income because they were not needed to finance loan capital.

 

7.3 Deposits mobilised were invested in Treasury bills to yield higher interest income because they were not needed to finance loan capital.

7.4 The construction of GAWFA’s Resource Centre which was approved by GAMWORKS last year, was started in April. The building when completed, sometimes in December, 1998, will also in addition to a serving as a resource centre provide offices to the Association.

7.5 The Board of Director due to the Association’s financial difficulties decided during the year to waive their sitting allowances.

7.6 The Gambia Government continued to provide assistance in the form of duty waivers on equipment.

7.7 The Standard Bank after an appeal made to them decided to waived all bank charges in connected with the operations of our Accounts with them.

7.8 GAWFA will be benefitting from a two years technical assistance provided by Republic of China on Taiwan. The grant which was signed on behalf of GAWFA by the SOS for Finance and Economic Affairs and on behalf of ROC by the Chinese Ambassador in The Gambia, has three components; Viz, the constructions of four Savings and Credit Centres (SACC), Staff training, and Management Information Systems.

7.7 No local fund raising activities was implemented during the year.

 

8. NETWORKING

 

8.1 Membership with TANGO was renewed and staff participated in different activities organised by TANGO and its members. GAWFA participated in TANGO's WID Task Force and facilitated in training workshops organised by TANGO for local NGO's.

8.2 Efforts to establish a network of microfinance organisations continued. In this regard, the General Manager attended a workshop in Dakar aimed at forming an African regional network. The network was launched and a Board of Directors elected, including The Gambia represented by GAWFA.

8.3 The Central Bank continued to provide technical support to GAWFA.

Networking opportunities have greatly enhanced GAWFA's visibility and provided avenues for impacting on policies and practices which discriminate against women and NGOs.