Follow microfinance synergies between California and Congo

Linda James

As one of HandUp Congo’s newest board members, Linda James recently attended the Microfinance USA Conference in San Francisco. Sponsored by Opportunity Fund, Kiva and Accion, the conference explored the role that microfinance plays in creating jobs, providing financial stability and strengthening communities. One of the themes throughout the two days was partnership. “Both the non-profit and for-profit sectors have begun to work together to achieve their respective economic development goals by forming partnerships in order to enable local communities access to financial services and infrastructure,” says Linda, whose ‘day job’ involves marketing an international law firm. “Networking with others at the conference gave me the opportunity to share some of Congo’s great micro business success stories,” she adds.

Chantal in yellow on left, with Antoinette, VP of FLO

“One of HandUp Congo’s role models is Mama Chantal, a dynamic leader trained by Hope International, who is inspiring women up and down the Congo River to work in small groups that empower one another. They successfully produce creative small businesses and also incorporate saving for a rainy day. That’s great partnership.”

A thumbprint serves as loan guarantee

While microfinance is a successful concept, Linda acknowledges that it has its challenges when trying to reach the poorest individuals and communities that have no access to banks or effective forms of communication. Nevertheless, microfinance is one powerful tool that can help to alleviate poverty. “Microfinance and HandUp Congo’s belief in the entrepreneurial spirit of the Congolese have already begun to make a difference with our project partners in Lotumbe and Kinshasa,” Linda reports. For more information about the conference please view the webcast of the sessions via http://www.microfinanceusa2010.org/webcast/ or visit the conference blog http://www.microfinanceusa2010.org/blog/