“Equity Bank is trying to see, how we can transform the economy of Africa and Uganda at large with the aim of not leaving anyone behind,” Ronald Mugabi, the Bank’s Business Growth and Development Manager.
Zombo – January 10, 2022: Tea farming in the West Nile sub-region and some districts in the Acholi sub-region is now on a good path after years of slow headway due to many factors.
For more than three years now, the Edwin Foundation Tea Initiative (EFOTI) has camped in the region’s districts of Zombo, Gulu, Nwoya and others to support farmers.
EFOTI has built capacities of tea farmers and stakeholders, increased the number of acres, brought farmers under groups, among other interventions.
Last week, Equity Bank Uganda’s Business Growth and Development Manager, Ronald Mugabi together with EFOTI Director, Edwin Atukunda Beekunda had a meeting with the key leaders of Alur Kingdom. That meeting discussed many issues regarding tea and how the bank can be of help.
TND News later had an interview with Mugabi. Read it below:
What was the aim of today’s meeting with key stakeholders of the Alur Kingdom?
My trip with EFOTI to Zombo is just to see how he has tried to transform the region, the tea farming, key stakeholders and partners he has – so that is the program we are having.
Today we got a chance to meet some key stakeholders in the Kingdom whom we talked to on how Equity Bank is trying to see, how we can transform the economy of Africa and Uganda at large with the aim of not leaving anyone behind
We talked at length on how we are seeing the future of tea farming in the region and key things they would need, achievements so safe and of course, he’s employing more than 500 people on the ground: that is number one achievement.
If people have got jobs that means they can pay school fees for their kids, they will manage to get survival – so the engagement with the Kingdom was ‘how are their people benefiting from the kingdom’.
One key thing they need is people who are connected – that is the Edwin Foundation which has managed to come from Kampala to this region to see people get a day to day income, keep them surviving.
We are seeing as a bank how to come in and sustain that cash crop that can make the region smile again because we know what happened sometimes back: there were wars, factories have been there but we have just seen they are revamping them (coffee factories in the area).
So, if a community has been depending on coffee now tea is there and it is a day to day thing. It means Edwin is trying to do a good job and he needs a hand from the bank that understands tea. You know Equity Bank comes from Kenya and Kenya’s one of the biggest countries dealing in tea so, Edwin partnering with Equity Bank is not a mistake, he’s with the bank which understands the crop he’s trying to push in the region.
How will the tea framers be able to get a loan service from the bank?
The bank has a partnership with Mastercard that looks at youth between 18 years to 35. As you are aware, the biggest community we have in Uganda youth are number one. So, we are looking at youth empowerment first, the youth can be given security free loans to a tune of shs5 million, we don’t need you to give us collaterals.
- Opinion: Why the public, tea farmers have to embrace Parish Development Model
- Nebbi welcomes Edwin Foundation Tea partnership
- Zombo: Alur King allocates land for tea factory
But how do we fund you? You must be in a group of people: ten, five, registered with the district CBO department. Imagine if a thousand youth combine and plant a square mile of tea, what would be their need? They need money to buy input to spray the plantations, to mulch and pay those who do day to day maintenance.
The bank looks at that as your main income-generating activity as a youth and we fund you on an individual basis. You are in the group, yes but we fund an individual.
Two, we have another line of women in business and it is a challenge to have security as a woman but your husband can give you an acre to grow tea or do a certain cash crop where you sell after like three, four months.
We are also putting them into consideration and we know by touching the life of a youth and woman the man is not overstretched because the man are the ones who do all lands but we are overstretched in looking for finance to sustain the day to day activity of the home.
As a bank, we look at empowering a woman through a short term facility: she is doing let’s say tomatoes selling, or a stall somewhere, it can make sense in five years, the economy will have transformed. Instead of depending on one arm of income, you depend on several. A youth is bringing, a mum is bringing and the father is also catering for the home.
In two to three years, that community is changed and that is how Equity Bank is trying to penetrate the economy.
Today you have met key leaders, and the targets are youth and women. How are you going to mobilize these youth? Or are you giving the task to EFOTI or key leaders you have met?
You see EFOTI has entered here and those community leaders – as we are talking they have an establishment that can mobilize the youth. All we need is for them to be fully registered then our team will come and train each group.
We first provide them with financial literacy not just give them money to spend. We first understand the group is formed to do what? And how is it going to benefit the community? The project shouldn’t just make an individual happy, no, the community should be happy.
With these structures that are already on the ground, everyone will be active in making sure these groups are active, funded and money is put to proper use. So, it won’t be only EFOTI to handle that, it will be a combined effort with the community.
Don’t you think with this kind of initiative, vision, there could be a need for Equity Bank to have a branch in either Zombo, closer to the farmers?
I was in Paidha and I managed to interact with some people in town. I saw that need and my team has assured me between February to March 2022 we can either have a virtual branch here to handle this calling. It is my first time in Zombo but with the business opportunities, I have seen it is really important to have an outlet here to handle that.
You know, to establish a branch you must identify the market need. So one of the activities is that we are on the ground, we are seeing how many people are crying for our need. Between February and March, a virtual branch will be there to support this need.
How will this virtual branch work in the community? Is there a need for them to have a smart (mobile) phone?
As of now, as a bank, we have already established a platform where you can open an account minus coming to the branch. If you dial *247# on any line you have you will have an account opened for Equity Bank. It asks you for your NIN number then you get your account. That is one of the initiatives the bank has done.
We also have agency banking. If we have an empowered agency that can do shs500m a day that one can handle the demand within Zombo. Account opening, you don’t need to come to the branch – it’s your phone – you have the account.
Banking is through an agent, withdrawing is through the agent that is why now physical branches are ceasing to be a way to go with digital banking.
One thing is to have a collection centre in case the money is too much. If you want a loan, apply through the agent and your loan is disbursed.