Thursday, 26 November 2009

The Last African Sunset

Thursday 26th November
My Jungle Fever lotion successfully warded off the angry mosquito in my hotel bedroom last night. Hallelujah! After scouring the room at 11pm and failing to find it and flatten it I basted myself in insect repellent. The DEET fumes ensured a deep night’s sleep!

We were in the taxi at 7.40am heading towards the BOM Head office. The roads were already generating the cacophonous symphony of an African rush-hour. We arrive and everyone is already in full swing – the office opens at 7.30am.

I meet Isabel, the HR Director (who is responsible for 250 staff the length and breadth of this enormous country - 3 times the size of the entire British Isles), for the first time. She gives me some insight into some of the challenges BOM faces in its work.

Out in the market again I met two clients both of whom had used a small loan to provide a stable income for their large families. Ana whose first loan was a mere £200 is well on her way to fulfilling her dream of ditching her current cramped and hot container stall and renovating a small bar with a mini terrace with table and chairs. Alzira, another client, said how she preferred BOM to the other banks as she had received a loan promptly whilst other friends had waited a long time with other banks and seen their businesses suffer as a result.

Back at bank HQ as the day was drawing to a close I felt a nagging urge to leave my desk, walk around the block and take in my last African sunset. I had long witnessed older men going misty eyed as they recounted their adventures in Africa and I had not understood the reason for their depth of passion. Now I feel I do. Visiting Mozambique, a country pockmarked by the ravages of civil war and poverty, and seeing the shoots of regeneration and growth I am genuinely excited for this corner of Africa. The challenges remain considerable but not insurmountable with the determination and tenacity of a gracious and gentle people.

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