Monday, 13 March 2017

Pakistan blog series | Day 3 - Akhuwat office: are they really as good as they seem?

In February 2017 I was lucky enough to visit our microfinance partner in Pakistan, Akhuwat. Please read my series of blogs to share my experience and insights into this inspiring organisation.

One of my tasks when on an evaluation trip for Lendwithcare is to ask questions from Lendwithcare supporters and potential supporters. Three questions I've been asked about our partnership with Ahkuwat are:

1. As a provider of interest-free microfinance, funded by voluntary donations*, are the donations from borrowers really voluntary or do they affect whether someone gets a loan?

2. Does Akhuwat prioritise Muslim borrowers?

3. The percentage of female borrowers is lower than in other Lendwithcare countries.

*Akhuwat encourages its borrowers to donate to Akhuwat's program to help their brethren once the borrowers themselves have gained through economic stability.

1. I spoke to Akhuwat staff in both the Head Office and branch offices about the voluntary donations from borrowers. Their systems ensure that the person making the lending decisions (usually the branch manager) does not know whether the person applying for a loan has previously made a donation or not.

I observed in the branches that borrowers who make a donation are given a receipt, and their donation is recorded by hand in a ledger. This is purely for audit purposes to ensure that it is impossible for any member of staff to keep any of the cash coming into the branch.

The Akhuwat model means that branches only record information by hand, not by computer. The paperwork is then sent to the area office to be captured on Akhuwat's Management Information System (MIS). The computerised repayment ledgers are then produced and given back to the branch for the collection of the next month's repayments. These ledgers do not contain any information on whether the borrower has donated or not.

Lending decisions are based purely on the viability of the borrower's business and their track record in making previous repayments on time, not on their donation history.

2. Akhuwat doe snot prioritise any religious group. Loan disbursements do take place in places of worship, but this is purely to keep costs to a minimum. Disbursals occur in mosques, churches and temples alike.

3. Around 42% of loans are made nominally to women. However, most loans are actually family loans. Often the name of the loan applicant is only based on the availability of the right paperwork, such as identity card and proof of address. I also met a female loan officer in the Delhi Gate branch, and there were another two female loan officers in the Kasur branch that Ajaz visited.

Tracey Horner
Head of Lendwithcare

Click here to read the next blog in the series: Day 4 - how Lendwithcare works with Akhuwat

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