In 2010, I had a conversation with Voster Tembo in which we discussed the plight of the people we knew in Zambia who had good business ideas but no access to finance to start those businesses. We had both noted how this was a common complaint among the poor people with whom we worked. Arising from that conversation, and having researched the Bangladesh model of the “Grameen Bank” founded by Muhammad Yunis, we set up the “Zambian Development Support Foundation” (ZDSF).
The ZDSF is registered in Zambia as a company and it has charitable status. Its first purpose was to provide very small loans to poor people who have no alternative source of business finance. The average loans were in the region of €300.00 and invariably our customers are widows with hungry mouths to feed.
It took a good while to put this all in place, but since early 2014, based on starting capital of just a few thousand euro, we have assisted in the foundation and expansion of over 60 start-up businesses. These businesses have all been successful and since we started nearly all loans have been paid back. We work on the basis that if we get our seed capital back, we can continue to fund more business ideas.
We greatly expanded our work in 2017. Several issues of loans were made in 2017 and by partnering with other trusted community leaders we are now serving other communities around Ndola. In June 2018, for example, we partnered with Pastor Francis Feruka of Ubusomboshi Royal Ministries church, who organised some of his parishioners into the Rolay Business Centre. The business centre started operations in chicken rearing and in sewing, using two sewing machines which were donated by supporters in Ireland. Within a few months, the members of the business centre were permanently lifted from poverty. As this is a project which works, we hope that over time many more people can commence the same journey.
The major restraint on expansion in this project usually comes down to a lack of funds. So far, the project has been funded by a handful of generous donors, and I have donated money myself, but the need for more money is always pressing.
In order to continue the expansion of business, our Zambian partners asked for assistance with financial planning, bookkeeping and financial literacy, and so in 2018 we commenced by running short courses on these topics for those who have joined ZDSF, and for those who aspire to do so. This is one project which can lift people out of poverty and place them in a financially stable position within six months.
By 2019, we expanded into vocational training, when an Irish carpenter came with us to Zambia train six young men as carpenters and we then provided them with the tools necessary to ply their trade.
A further development came in 2020 when we established a Business Skills Integration Workshop to bring together skilled tradesmen, such as the carpenters we trained in 2019, in a more organised and supportive way. The workshop space is near the main market in the centre of Ndola and is managed by my friend and colleague, Emmanuel Phiri. This workshop is used by carpenters, mechanics, upholsters and welders who share their knowledge and resources to more easily establish, and then grow successful independent businesses. We invested 50,000.00 kwacha (€2,500.00) in raw materials, including wood, leather and steel as a start-up initiative. Emmanuel arranged for six tradesmen who had no access to funds or a place to run a business, to work together at this one location. As of the time of writing, six young men have each established a successful business, and we are planning the next stage of expansion of the project.
You can read the ZDSF Director’s annual report for the previous years in the Reports section at the top.