Wednesday 25th November
One month to Christmas and yet the consumer activity of Christmas to which we are accustomed feels like a million miles away.
After a searingly hot walk into the market Sally and I head down to the bank branch. Timóteo’s eyes are aglow when we arrive as they have just received permission to open up the motorbikes (provided thanks to a grant from the EU). They are gleamingly red 250 cc Honda models. The bikes will transform the lives of the Loan Officers halving their travel time to the markets to meet clients. It is hard to appreciate how much this means to the staff. It is clear from the buzz about the branch today that this is a significant boost to their collective morale – it will help them ramp up their business and of course give them a great of street cred around the city! They will become known as the biking ‘Banking Angels’!
The branch continues to grow before our eyes. Timóteo updates us that whilst we have been in town the branch has gained 15 new savings clients and recruited about 12 new groups of loan clients (each group has 5 members)! Each new client receives a BOM branded little wallet. More marketing will take place next week as Loan Officers are deployed to the local markets spreading the word about the new bank in town and handing out BOM emblazoned keyrings as a memento.
As we drive Timóteo shares his dream – to finish his undergraduate studies in night school. His parents died when he was 20 years old leaving him on his own to provide for his sisters and make a living. Consequently he simply could not afford to go to University. Sparse University facilities across the country and high tuition fees have prevented thousands and thousands of the nation’s young an opportunity to tertiary education. The bulk of our staff have not had this privilege and are subsequently playing ‘catch up’ doing evening classes the minute the branch closes.
On our way to the airport we drive past the Mozambiquan Leaf Company headquarters – a massive complex of buildings ringfenced behind a high security barrier. Executives of the company live in premium gated communities within the perimeter fence. Now I come to think of it I have not yet seen one Mozambiquan smoking only the expats staying in our hotel! A local industry supported by Westerners working locally!
We make the flight by the skin of our teeth and arrive back into Maputo at 9pm. In our absence the hotel has dusted off the Christmas Tree and placed it in the lobby. Eek – soon we will have to change gear and return home and prepare for Christmas!