Congratulations to this week’s winner of the Raffle for Institutional Action Plan Submitters, Hekima of the Democratic Republic of the Congo!
Hekima’s mission is “to contribute to the transformation of the economic, social, and spiritual lives of the economically active poor of the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC) as a sustainable, innovative microfinance institution of the highest quality,” (2004). Hekima began operations in the Kivu regions of Eastern DRC in 2007, an area marked by over a decade of war as well as social, economic and institutional collapse. Within this challenging environment, Hekima strives to serve the economically active poor, giving special attention to female entrepreneurs. They follow the community group lending methodology, which allows for disbursement of loans to clients lacking conventional collateral. Hekima identifies this dimension as a major objective to achieving its mission. The MFI’s business plan calls for operating in the war-torn and volcano-damaged Kivu regions of Eastern DRC, areas that they consider underdeveloped and underserved by observation. They choose to also work in rural Kavumu in order to serve poor women farmers. Targeting these geographies has allowed them to reach their intended clientele; 100% fall below the $1 a day poverty line, and 94% of them are women. While Hekima does not use a targeting tool to select clients, the formidable challenges faced by the population in the regions in which they operate clearly render them poor and socially marginalized.
Providing high-quality financial products and services appropriate for their clients’ needs is a major objective for Hekima. A recent Kiva evaluation found that Hekima shows strength in this area, with a variety of loan products available to clients, including those adapted for both productive and social needs. The effective interest rate for their main loan product is 65.7%. Hekima monitors their pricing policy on an ongoing basis, working to keep operational costs as low as possible to ensure that the costs to clients are also reduced as much as possible.
To improve the livelihoods of their clients, Hekima provides some financial literacy training on how to manage credit as a group and establishes roles amongst the members of the group.
To be sure clients are reaping benefits from their services, Hekima has a system in place to measure improvement in client economic status over time via information gathered after each credit cycle. The MFI does not yet integrate social performance management into credit agent training to ensure services are being delivered in a focused and effective manner, but they intend to do so in the near future. Staff appraisals and incentive schemes will be tied to social performance goals. Hekima also includes clients in decision-making through solidarity groups, where all client representatives are women.
On Kiva’s evaluation, Hekima scored well on its efforts to “do good” while “doing no harm,” an important objective for them. They can be commended for their strong commitment to the Smart Campaign’s Client Protection Principles. Hekima exhibits social responsibility towards staff as well, with long-term contracts, staff training, specific policies for women, and health insurance. While there is no formal elected consultative body of employees, the staff communicates issues, concerns and ideas to management at weekly meetings. Continuing to listen to employee voices, and maintaining a schedule of regular, systematic surveys of employee expectations and/or satisfaction, will likely help Hekima sustain their low staff turnover rateof 4%.
To promote local social and economic development in the vulnerable Kivu regions, Hekima looks to work specifically with women, especially those widowed in the recent war. By offering women the opportunity to be entrepreneurs and leaders within their Solidarity Groups, Hekima is empowering them to become change agents in their community.