South Pacific: $209m Loan Mark

Dec 2017
South Pacific, December, 09 2017 - A microfinance network has enabled many women entrepreneurs in Fiji and the South Pacific to establish and grow their businesses, further improving their livelihoods. The network — South Pacific Business Development (SPBD) — has also expanded since its inception in 2000 — reaching more than 40,000 rural and underprivileged women in six Pacific countries including Fiji.

SPBD's journey reached a hallmark yesterday when the network surpassed $US100 million ($F209.25m) in "micro loans" disbursed to tens of thousands of women entrepreneurs.

From meek beginnings to now with its rapid expansion, the 100th million dollar mark comes after Fijian entrepreneur Vilisi Tabua — a fish dealer — at the Suva Public Market, received her $10,000 loan from SPBD.

According to SPBD Fiji general manager Elrico Munoz, more than 34,250 loans worth $US16.5m ($F34m) have been disbursed to Fijian women entrepreneurs by them so far.

On a regional level, SPBD has disbursed more than 165,000 very small, micro loans to hardworking, low-income entrepreneurs in the South Pacific, 99 per cent of who are women.

"Today (yesterday) marks a very important milestone in our history — $US100m total loans disbursed in the span of 17 years to deserving low income women entrepreneurs in the South Pacific," Mr Munoz said.

"In Fiji alone, we currently have a total of more than 9000 members (all women) and have disbursed a total of more than $US16m ($F33m) loans since we started here in 2010."

Since its launch in 2000, Mr Munoz said SPBD had also impacted tens of thousands of women like Mrs Tabua, who joined SPBD in 2012 and successfully grew her fishing business.

Her success enabled her to access SPBD's larger small-medium enterprise (SME) financing, and yesterday she received her 8th loan. With SPBD support, Mrs Tabua has also significantly improved her housing and living conditions.

"I would not have been able to achieve much without SPBD, because it's very hard to get a loan from banks. I strongly believe that SPBD brought us up to where we are now," she said.

"My family and I used to live in inadequate conditions and in order to improve our living space, I took my loan. So much has become possible with SPBD, the benefit has not only been in terms of finance but also things like savings, financial literacy, leadership and independence."

Established in Samoa, SPBD has grown in leaps and bounds too operating now in five countries — Samoa, Tonga, Fiji, the Solomon Islands and Vanuatu.

With a dedicated staff of 154, SPBD has 17 offices and offers 16 products and services, including credit, savings, death benefits, financial education and business skills training to its members.

SPBD also expanded its operations from Suva to five more branches in Sigatoka, Lautoka, Rakiraki, Labasa and Savusavu.

"From these six offices we have covered the major islands of Viti Levu, Vanua Levu, Ovalau and Taveuni," Mr Munoz said.

"Our hardworking team of 30 field officers covers a total of 385 villages where we meet our members every week to serve them."

Reflecting on their journey, SPBD founder and president Gregory Casagrande said $US100m was a major milestone and they anticipated for much more in the years to come.

"Since our inception in 2000, SPBD has been on a journey to provide meaningful economic opportunity to underprivileged women micro-entrepreneurs," Mr Casagrande said.

"We invest in women, empower their dreams and deliver impact.

"SPBD will continue to expand within its current countries as well as into new country markets throughout the South Pacific, bringing its successful microfinance products and services to new, deserving women entrepreneurs and helping them to improve the standard of living for themselves and their families."

SPBD works to advance financial inclusion through microfinance to improve the lives of people across the South Pacific.

With a mission to improve the quality of life of underprivileged families by providing them meaningful economic opportunity to help lift them permanently out of poverty, SPBD is especially focused on empowering women to start, grow and maintain micro-businesses.

This is done through the provision of access to financial and business development services as well as the opportunity to build assets, improve financial security and finance housing improvements and education.

Source : The Fiji Times

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