Friday, 20 November 2009

Sticking Plaster Solutions

Friday 20th November

The last key task before leaving the office for the airport was to check the equipment and stowaway the laptop into my hand luggage. All the equipment seemed in full working order except for a loose connection on the end of the laptop power cable. Without further ado, Vinay, our Finance Assistant and guardian of all the machinery in the office rustled up a roll of sellotape and proceeded to tape up the loose connection, saying “How about an African solution”?! Perfect.

All aboard the Kenyan Airways flight some 3 hours later and the air hostess is wrestling with my overhead locker which refuses to close. In a flash she has called for assistance, moved the contents of my locker and started taping up the troublesome locker above my head. Sally (Programme Manager at OI) and I looked at each other and grinned saying we hoped that was the only problem onboard being solved by a few strips of duck tape.

As I reflected on these two short term solutions to problems I couldn’t help thinking how different the solution of microfinance is. By providing simple financial services to the poor Opportunity International is attempting to tackle a root problem of economic disempowerment and provide a long term self sustaining solution – not a sticking plaster solution.

That is what we hope to see in the coming days...

We arrived in Maputo to a torrential downpour of rain and a two hour wait for the issuing of a tourist visa at Immigration! We quickly experienced what the guidebooks called Mozambican ‘p√Ęciencia’ – a need to suspend a sense of urgency and just have patience with the way things are.

As we made our way in a minibus to the hotel down long and spacious tree-lined boulevards I was amazed at the relative modernity and prosperity of the City centre. I could only imagine that the remaining rural provinces of the country must be significantly poorer to have kept the country at about 172 out of 182 countries on the UN Human Development Index over the last 5 years.

Tomorrow we leave the confines of an office and see life at street level in the Saturday markets.

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