Kinkole, on the outskirts of Kinshasa in the Democratic Republic of Congo, is a neighbourhood known for its culinary speciality, Maboke - a delicious steamed fish dish. But the local population, many of whom are living in poverty, has a precarious economic situation due to ongoing conflict, and children born into the area face uncertain futures. Since VisionFund International began its microfinancial services in the area, both men and especially women are able to access the credit they need to finance their business initiatives and provide for their children.
Innocente is a mother living in Kinkole. With a small start-up loan from VisionFund, she and her husband began a new way of life - she operating a small shop, and her husband maintaining a market garden. Between their businesses, they are now in a position to finance their children's education for the first time.
Innocente explains: "We used to have great difficulty running our activities. We could barely afford to pay our children's school fees and household expenses. But access to credit from the VisionFund provided us with the solution. My husband and I formed a business partnership. With the credits from VisionFund, he finances his gardens and I sell small items in my shop."
All parents in Kinkole want their children to have a good education, and VisionFund is helping families achieve their goals. Josée managed to continue paying her children's fees, even after her husband lost his job, thanks to a small loan from VisionFund. Josée invested her loan in expanding her commercial activities, and continued to pay for her son's studies with the profit from her business, and her son is now a qualified doctor. She also used her profits set up a sewing workshop for her daughter to run, which enables her daughter and her family to earn an income.
"I have always wanted my children to prosper in life. When I joined VisionFund in 2014, they were no longer studying because their father had lost his job. With money from VisionFund, they were able to go back to school. Afterwards, I set up a sewing workshop for my daughter. The workshop generates income for the whole family. My son went to university, and now he is a doctor. The profits from these credits gave us stability. I thank VisionFund and invite others to join,” says Josée.
While 71% of VisionFund's clients are women, as they are less likely to have sufficient economic opportunities, men are also welcome to access to loans through VisionFund's services. Ringo, a community-minded family man, went from renting to owning a house (where he lives with his wife and children) and became a market gardener to continue providing for his family. As a result of this experience, he now aims for bigger investments which can benefit the whole community.
"What VisionFund has done for us is very wonderful. It has walked along-side us through training and empowerment sessions. Currently, I am the owner of a house that I built after receiving 4.5 million Congolese francs in credit from VisionFund. At the time, I was a tenant. In two years, VisionFund changed that status. Today, I am a market gardener. But as president of the savings and credit group Mayele na mosala, I want us to set up community projects to increase our profits. It can be a hospital, or a bakery, in addition to the large plantations we cultivate in the highlands,” Ringo says.
The lives of over 19,300 children of VisionFund's clients in Kinkole have been transformed through loans from VisionFund. Men applied for loans in businesses with higher risk and returns, meaning their investment value is currently $2,378,930. Women, however, are still traditionally the majority borrowers. Over 3,044 mothers and daughters benefited from this project in Kinkole compared to 2,324 men, borrowing $1,569,475. This credit-based approach to improve the living conditions of Kinkole familes and their communities earned VisionFund the reputation as the top microfinance institution in Kinshasa for the year 2018.