Measuring the future

When KBC employee Koen Van Huffel talks about figures and financial projections, it sounds like fun - really! Koen loves numbers. And his job in the business office in Kortrijk. Producing credit analyses for large family businesses is his idea of “cool” and “fun”. So he’s the ideal volunteer for BRS to introduce microfinancing institutions (MFIs) to their latest financial tool: Microvision. He did the same for Madfa Sacco in Uganda.

Great tool

Koen: “Microvision is a financial projection tool designed by Microfact, an initiative of BRS and the Luxembourg NGO ADA. Based on a simple Excel document, it allows microfinancing institutions to produce a projection of their future results and to engage in strategic planning. The built-in formulas immediately show the impact of potential decisions. It’s a really useful and great thing!

Of course, I first underwent training to learn Microvision myself, together with an international group of MFI staff and consultants. With one of these students, Manzi Ndamukunze from Rwanda, I travelled to Uganda in January to give Madfa Sacco our first Microvision Workshop. Exciting stuff.”

Clear objectives

Koen: “Madfa Sacco (Mafindi District Farmers Association) is a savings and credit cooperative in Western Uganda. The shareholders - mainly local farmers - are the borrowers and savers. A team of professional experts leads the MFI.

First, Manzi and I defined the objectives with the management and the Board of Directors. Where does Madfa Sacco want to be in three years? And what are the priorities? With these clear objectives in mind, we then started working with Microvision together with the management.”

Projections instead of hope

Koen: “And that led to concrete results. For example, in three years’ time, Madfa Sacco wants the sum total of all credits not repaid on time to be no more than 5% of total outstanding credits. Filling in variables and assumptions made it clear what needs to be done to achieve this objective. And allows them to measure over time whether they are on the right track, because it is not enough to simply ‘hope things work out’.

The same applies to matters like hiring additional staff or investing in the construction of an additional office. Microvision immediately reveals whether this is financially feasible. And whether it can be done without driving up prices for customers. Microvision helps maintain a balance between the social objective and financial sustainability.”

Juliet’s house

Koen: “Achieving the right balance also helps customers. And they benefit because microcredit changes their lives.

Take Juliet, a 37-year-old woman. She started with one cow, now she has six. And she grows maize, sunflowers and peanuts. She proudly showed me her new house. What a difference compared with the run-down hut she lived in a few years ago. Juliet has become a distinguished woman who, with the help of microcredit, has created a future for herself and her children. That commands respect.”

The heart of the matter

Koen: “For me, this was a unique experience. An adventure. As a BRS volunteer, I get the chance to help eliminate inequality in the world. In a way that respects people. I think that is very important. Because behind all those numbers I love to play with, are people and their stories. And that is what it is all about for me in the end: that they have a future and are able to improve their lives.”