We have Liftoff!

1 April 2012 at 03:02 2 comments

Natalie Sherman | KF17 | Cameroon

This week has been one of many firsts here at ACEP Cameroun.  Not only has the MFI’s partner page officially gone live, but the bank’s inaugural Kiva borrower, Nathalie, has just received her loan.  I watched with pride as ACEP’s Kiva Coordinator reviewed with Nathalie her disbursement paperwork and then walked her over to the cashier’s station.  It’s a sensation I’d liken to how one must feel when sending a son or daughter off to the first day of school- a mixture of joy, reassurance and perhaps just the tiniest bit of apprehension as to what lies ahead.

ACEP's first Kiva borrower, signing her disbursement paperwork.

Just a few mere hours after ACEP’s very first loans hit the Kiva site, they were fully funded. High-fives ensued all around the office (no joke).  Sure, arriving at this moment may not have been as arduous as preparing for NASA’s famed Apollo 11 launch, but the staff here, from receptionist to loan officer to Directeur Général (DG), certainly has been putting in its time and hard work to make these milestones possible.  I’m impressed with our team, for their patience in adapting to the new practices that a Kiva partnership brings to their daily lives, and for taking a chance on these new clients.

The fearless team: Loan Officer, Team Supervisor, Kiva Coordinator, and... driver!

The DG meeting with loan officers from different Yaoundé branches.

Another “first”, not necessarily related to the ACEP-Kiva partnership but equally as interesting, was my experience sitting in on the Directeur Général’s debriefing to loan officers.  I had expected with an MFI as large and as formally operated as ACEP that staff members wouldn’t have the opportunity to work so closely with the “big boss”.  In reality though, loan officers and other employees alike come into and out of the Directeur’s office on a regular basis; he always makes time for them. During this frank discussion with the officers about the outcomes of the bank’s recent Board meeting, the DG demonstrated his humble leadership.  Telling the officers that they should feel free to contact him anytime, even in the middle of the night, he gave advice on everything from how they can best achieve monthly quotas to being safe and responsible on their motorcycles.  His demeanor is quite paternal: stern while kind and approachable.

Lydie uploads ACEP's first Kiva profile.

Now, I won’t pretend that these past few months haven’t presented challenges, both professional and personal.  To start, the fact that I arrived in the office almost 8 weeks ago and am now just overseeing the first Kiva profiles live on the site speaks to the fact that life here moves slowly.  Meetings and trainings are cancelled somewhat regularly, but often this is as a result of working at an institution bursting with business, its human resources stretched thin.  Most of my time has been spent inside the office of ACEP’s D.G., which makes me feel a bit out of touch with not only the MFI’s other staff members but also borrowers in the greater Yaoundé community, whose situations I really want to get to know better.

Heading to meet a potential client in the Mokolo market.

ACEP’s Board of Directors has only just now given the official go ahead for the institution to implement the Kiva model.  Questions arise on a regular basis of how to manage certain of its elements, and though solutions are developed and training carried out, without “real” borrowers to demonstrate, it’s been difficult for ACEP staff to have a clear understanding of the Kiva process from beginning to end.  When all is said and done though, the talent and commitment of the team assures me that we’ll be seeing a lot more milestones in the not-so-distant future.  Keep an eye out to lend to one of ACEP’s many dynamic, new Kiva borrowers!

Entry filed under: Africa, Cameroon, KF17 (Kiva Fellows 17th Class), Kiva Field Partners. Tags: , , , , , , .

The Bridge: Between Life and Dead Update from the Field: Non-Financial Services, Employment Discrimination + The Dark Side of Sustainable Tourism


  • […] We Have Liftoff! Natalie Sherman | KF17 | Cameroon After eight weeks of hard work with Kiva’s new field partner ACEP Cameroun, Natalie shares her thrill at watching her MFI’s first loans go up on the Kiva website and get funded in full within hours. […]

  • 2. gringacarioca  |  2 April 2012 at 05:41

    You have no idea how well-timed this post is for me. I’ve definitely been grappling with many of the same sentiments you relate here…frustration with the slow-paced work culture, feeling isolated from the community the MFI serves, etc. You definitely deserve to bask in the awesomeness of this great moment for MFI, and I am so proud of you for hanging in there!

Get Involved!

Learn more about this blog and about Kiva Fellows

Visit Kiva.org

Apply to be a Kiva Fellow

Enter your email address to receive notifications of new posts by email.

Join 1,348 other followers


Drawing from the Field

Kiva Blog Policy

%d bloggers like this: