Liberia: BRAC Inaugurates Its 33rd Microfinance Branch in Zorzor

BRAC Liberia Microfinance Company Limited, Nur Alam Siddiki present a sealed envelope to one of their clients.   

BRAC Liberia has launched its 33rd branch office in the Zorzor City of Lofa County, continuing its mission to promote financial inclusion in Liberia. 

Abdullai Molley, Assistant Director for Regulation and Supervision at the Central Bank of Liberia (CBL) officially inaugurated the new branch at a ceremony held in Balema Community, Zorzor, Lofa County on February 15.

Wynston A. Jallah, Level 1 Bank Examiner, and dignitaries of the Lofa County and Zorzor city local authority were also present at the ceremony. 

BRAC Liberia is the largest microfinance provider in the country, transforming the lives of its clients with access to finance.

The official program which took place in Lofa County brought together local authorities of the Zorzor district including the Zorzor District Commissioner, City Mayoress, Magistrate, District Education Officer, Joint security, Religious leaders, representatives from the Central Bank of Liberia, BRAC Liberia Microfinance clients amongst others.

This is the 4th Microfinance Branch of BRAC in Lofa County. BRAC Liberia Microfinance Company Limited (BLMCL) started operations as a company in Liberia in 2008.

Over the years it has grown to be the largest microfinance institution in the country. BLMCL’s mission is to provide a range of financial services to people at the bottom of the pyramid, especially women living in poverty in rural and hard-to-reach areas, to create self-employment opportunities, build financial resilience, and promote women’s entrepreneurial spirit by empowering them economically.  

In alignment with its mission, BRAC will provide loans to populations living in poverty, especially women of Zorzor to invest and grow their businesses. 

By doing this, BRAC has fulfilled a critical gap by giving access to finance to a community that does not have any other alternative available in the region. 

In the new branch, BRAC will offer its group-based microloans provided exclusively to women, agricultural loans, and small enterprise loans for both men and women entrepreneurs. 

BLMCL also offers loans for job holders in 25 other branches of the country. 

Making his remarks, Nur Alam Siddiki, who is the program manager of BRAC Liberia Microfinance Company Limited (BLMCL), re-emphasized that BLMCL is the biggest microfinance institution in Liberia. 

Since 2008, BLMCL has been working with the people of Liberia providing inclusive financial services, and is currently in 8 counties serving more than 46,000 borrowers.

Giving a general overview of BRAC’s history, the Chief Executive Officer of BLMCL, Mr. Khaled Morshed, disclosed that BRAC was established in Bangladesh in 1972 and later extended its operations to ten other countries. 

In Bangladesh, BRAC has over 4million clients across 3000 branches. In 2021 BLMCL disbursed 28 million US dollars to its clients in Liberia and they are aiming to increase their loan disbursement to US$30 million this year (2022) targeting 50,000 borrowers out of which 97% are women. 

Clients are given basic financial literacy training on how to manage their monies and how to handle challenges they might encounter in their businesses.

He lauded clients and other stakeholders from various sectors for gracing the occasion by turning up in large numbers. He also thanked them for opening their doors to the institution. 

Speaking on behalf of the Central Bank of Liberia was Abdullai Molley- Assistant Director- Regulation and Supervision. He acknowledged BLMCL for being outstanding amongst microfinance institutions in aiding CBL to fulfill its mission of financial inclusion.

He said, “as most of you may be aware, the microfinance sector, which constitutes one of the largest components of the financial sector, in Liberia is in a developing stage and that the central bank of Liberia is doing all it can to encourage financial inclusion to all parts of the country to extend financial services to as much of the population as possible.”

Molley revealed, “the central bank policy is to allow for fair competition amongst the financial institutions and we are happy that BRAC will consider directing some of its lending resources to the agriculture and SME sectors which are in dire need of credit to enhance economic development.”

The CBL representative noted that the microfinance sector is in a better position to provide needed financial resources to support the growth of the Liberian economy, create jobs and reduce poverty; and that the improvement in the sector over the past years has focused on increased capitalization of financial institutions, enhanced corporate governance and better risk management practices.  

CBL has increased the capital for microfinance institutions operating in Liberia from US$100 to US$50,000 amongst 17 microfinance entities of which BRAC stands as number one in capital adequacy.

He reassured the public that the CBL, as the mother regulator for all financial institutions, will continue working to restore confidence, certainty, and competence in the financial sector.

In his remarks, a proxy for Zorzor District Commissioner- Joseph Bedell thanked BRAC management for opening one of its branches in Zorzor amidst people’s call for financial empowerment.

He cautioned clients to remain in conformity with BRAC set rules and regulations in obtaining and servicing the loans given them.

Also making comments, Zorzor city Mayoress- Garmai Gbelee urged prospective clients to refrain from considering money from BRAC as a government fund to pay back by all procedures and regulations associated with its microfinance program.

She advised citizens to avoid the recurrence of taking the institution’s finances and refusing to pay as it was practiced initially years back when BRAC Liberia first came to Zorzor District.

Speaking on behalf of the court, the Stipendiary Magistrate of the Zorzor Magisterial court- F. Joseph S. Momolu admonished BRAC Liberia to be soft with clients in the reimbursement of loans instead of using the court in getting payments done. He added that the court should only be run as the last resort.

At the end of the ceremony, 12 women from different communities of Zorzor received loans ranging from L$15,000, L$17,000, L$20,000, and L$25,000 respectively. 

Also making remarks, Krubo Yomah, the first loan recipient of BLMCL, Zorzor branch, excitedly applauded the institution for deeming it necessary in establishing a branch in Zorzor.

In his closing remarks, the CEO Said “We are honored to play a role in transforming the lives of our clients through providing access to finance. We have not only impacted the lives of our clients, but BLMCL has also created many jobs in the country. We now employ 389 Liberians in our company and the majority of our staff are women”, said Khaled Morshed, Chief Executive Officer of BLMCL. “We are grateful to have this opportunity to strengthen our ties with the Government of Liberia and contribute further in improving access to safe and reliable financial services.”

BRAC believes that people living in poverty can turn around their own lives given the right opportunities and tools. 

In its 2021 impact assessment in Liberia using Lean DataSM methodology, microfinance clients of BRAC noted improvements in their financial resilience in emergencies, and almost all of them stated that their quality of life has improved since engaging with BRAC. 96% of clients said that they earned more after engaging with BRAC, and 100% reported that they could not easily access a good alternative, proving the positive impact of BRAC's services on the lives of its clients.

BRAC Liberia Microfinance Company Limited has over 46,000 borrowers, 97% of whom are women, and has disbursed over USD 100 million in loans since its inception. The company played an important role to keep up the economic activity in Liberia during the Ebola outbreak and the COVID lockdown situation. 

BRAC is one of the participating financial institutions for the Post Ebola Reconstruction Project, coordinated jointly by the Central Bank of Liberia and the Ministry of Finance and Development Planning and funded by the World Bank.

Besides its microfinance activities, BRAC NGO has had social development programs since 2008, such as agriculture and food security, health, education, empowerment and livelihood for adolescents, and ultra-poor graduation programs.