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"An Enterprising Student," From 'Venture: A Collection of True Microfinance Stories'

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Venture is a rich and readable collection of true microfinance stories. It is written for anyone who would like to better understand the realities faced by the the aspiring middle class in the world's least developed countries, the range of factors that affect their prospects for working their way out of poverty, and how microfinance can impact their lives.

The entrepreneurs featured in this book are all members of Zidisha Microfinance, a web-based crowdfunding platform that allows low-income, computer-savvy entrepreneurs in developing countries to share their stories and negotiate microloans directly with individual lenders. As the world's first person-to-person lending service to eliminate intermediaries and connect individual web users and entrepreneurs across the international wealth divide, Zidisha is uniquely positioned to offer an undistorted depiction of the variety of individual stories and circumstances that come to play each time a microfinance loan is disbursed.

Each story paints an unforgettable picture: A 70-year-old goat farmer who relocates his home to better care for his ailing father, carrying the sticks and metal sheeting it was made from across the mountains on his back. A plump, beaming detergent saleslady who lives in a home no larger than an ordinary bathroom but has adopted five orphans. A cancer survivor who supports herself and two children by pounding millet for $1.58 per day. An irrepressible lady who supplies half of her neighborhood with much-needed IVs and other medical supplies by day, and by night checks into the local cybercafe to chat with Facebook friends on the other side of the world. A young man who has no arms but insists on working to support his able-bodied parents out of filial duty. An accounting student who pays for his university tuition by purchasing a taxi and splitting proceeds with a hired driver. A bright young lady who renounces college to care for her orphaned siblings and overcomes gender stereotypes to launch a thriving construction business.

At its heart, "Venture" is a tribute to the remarkable community of Zidisha Microfinance entrepreneurs and countless others like them -- a tribute to their grit, ambition and indomitable spirit in the face of overwhelming obstacles. We hope this book will help translate the statistics about poverty and the opportunities afforded by microfinance into human terms, and inspire readers to reach out and connect with their counterparts on the other side of the international wealth divide.

Story 29: An Enterprising Student

Mamadou Sellou Barry is a student in Accounting and Finance at the University of Dakar in Senegal. He divides his time between studying, working and volunteering with a local nonprofit that provides education to disadvantaged children. We found out that he is recently engaged and will have his wedding in a few months! Throughout our conversation he frequently mentioned his friends and family and the importance of being able to support them as well as himself. He is only 24 years old and seems to be a determined and goal-oriented entrepreneur who wants the best for everyone. 

"Being from a family of chauffeurs, since my childhood my dream was to create a transport business that would be managed exclusively by my family," says Mamadou. "This is why after my baccalaureate, I did all sorts of jobs to save up and after my aunt helped me so that I could buy my own taxi. With the unemployment rate that does not stop increasing in Africa, I believe those that are intelligent will think to invest in their own business instead of waiting for the state."

Right now, Mamadou owns two cars - one government-registered taxi and one private car - which are both used in his transport business. He used his first Zidisha loan to fix his first car which had problems with its motor. Having fully repaid the first loan, he used his current Zidisha loan of $1,000, topped up with some of his own savings, to buy the second car. Mamadou's younger brother is a mechanic and is able to help him with fixing and maintaining the vehicles. Mamadou has hired two employees to drive his cars, under a compensation scheme in which the drivers pay him a fixed amount each day and keep any profit past that. Mamadou explained that both he and the drivers gain from the business that way - and employing others as drivers allows Mamadou to dedicate time to his university studies.

The addition of the second car increased Mamadou's profits substantially. He said he divides his earnings into two parts: one to invest back into his business and the other to help support his family. With his marriage in only a few months, some of his earnings will go to pay for his wedding as well. 

Mamadou's ultimate goal is to establish his Barry 21 car enterprise as a large and profitable family business. He seems passionate about making it a successful reality. He wants to have five or six cars in total--at least three taxis and two private cars. He said that he needs a lot of money to be able to purchase the cars in good condition (or be able to fix them) and said he will build his enterprise slowly, one car at a time. 

Mamadou's Words:

Before having seen Zidisha, I had a dream and did not know how to achieve it. This is why I will never forget the day were my friend talked to me about this NGO. Being from a family of chauffeurs, since my childhood, my dream was to create a transport business that would be managed exclusively by my family- this is to say my sisters and my brothers and my cousins, etc. We should rely on the experience of our parents who know how to do it. This is why after my baccalaureate, I did all sorts of jobs to save up and after my aunt helped me so that I could buy my own taxi. With the unemployment rate that does not stop increasing in Africa, I believe those that are intelligent will think to invest in their own business instead of waiting for the state. I am applying for a new loan to buy a new car that I drove myself during vacations. Right now, I am in contact with potential monthly customers that work in a hotel in town. According to my calculations, I can find myself with a minimum of 200,000 CFA [$437] that will be saved. Because I have three clients that I will bring in the morning and pick up in the evening, and each will pay me 5,000 CFA [$11] per day that I will save for the purchase of a new car. The money that I will make the rest of the day will be for the payment of the Zidisha loan and paying off the debt of the car. If anything is left over, I will think of looking for my own plot of land. That is my objective and I believe that in five years I will have a business with the cars. Then my little sisters and brothers will not be obligated to search fruitlessly for a job. Indeed, I would like them to avoid the difficulties that I had to undergo. Thank you and best wishes to everyone.

You may view more comments and photos at Mamadou's Zidisha Microfinance profile page.

From Chapter 29 of Venture: A Collection of True Microfinance Stories by Zidisha Microfinance.

Next time:A resourceful young immigrant to Nairobi tries one business idea after another in an effort to make a living in the city...