Sunday, May 26, 2024

Powering women to live their dream

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March 8 is International Women’s Day, which amplifies calls to invest in women and accelerate progress towards ending poverty and inequalities. We track how a local bank’s financing vehicle is greasing the wheels of women investors often rejected by financial institutions:

Tadala (left) poses with one of the nurses at Tapempha Medical Care Centre clinic

When Dr Thandie Mabedi decided to quit her job, she dreamed of owning a clinic where Malawians could access no-fee specialist services they obtain beyond the borders.

The medical doctor and her husband opened Uromed Clinic in Lilongwe in 2020 to fulfil her dream.

“My husband is also a doctor,” she says. “Together, we grew the dream of opening a clinic to offer general services and specialized services, but most banks we approached weren’t keen to support a start-up business and had tough conditions, including collateral.”

Mabedi was undeterred in search of capital for her dream project.

She is now the executive director of Uromed Clinic which offers more than just urology, a part of healthcare that deals with diseases of the male and female urinary tract such as kidneys, ureters, bladder and urethra. It also specializes in gynecology, which deals with the female reproductive system, including pregnancy-related procedures and complications.

“We also specialize in kidneys and our procedures don’t involve open surgery on prostates to avoid complications. We have laser treatment to treat kidney stones, which no other clinic treats in Malawi,” she narrates.

Dr Mabedi captured at the clinic

The clinic employs 44 workers, up from eight at the start.

Four years on, it is on course for expansion to a 30-bed facility following the acquisition of land just opposite the current five-bed clinic.

NBM Development Bank Limited, the development financing institution of the National Bank of Malawi (NBM) plc, supported the Mabedi’s dream project.

She recounts: “We made a presentation about our dream and we were stunned to hear NBM Development Bank Limited committing to support the building and buying of equipment.”

They paid back the loan within three years and qualified for another one from the Financial Inclusion and Entrepreneurship Scaling [FInEs] project through the NBM Development Bank. The World Bank funds FInEs, a five-year initiative by the Government of Malawi through the Reserve Bank of Malawi (RBM).

“We are using the money to build a bigger hospital which will have radiology, X-ray and advanced laboratory,” says Mabedi.

A similar dream come true is Tapempha Medical Care Centre at Namitete Trading Centre along the Lilongwe-Mchinji Road.

Tapempha Clinic

Shareholder Tadala Kathumba, a human resources manager, says the FInEs project provided K375 million through NBM Development Bank Limited to construct the 100-bed clinic and procure medical equipment.

“The clinic employs 65 people and serves about 3 000 patients per month. We aim to see Malawians getting medical care here, not outside the country,” she says.

The two stories testify to the need to invest in women to achieve their dreams of changing the world around them.

In both cases, the women were first rejected by other financial institutions.

This year, the International Women’s Day theme, inspire inclusion, calls for a shift towards investing in women “Invest in women to accelerate progress. This highlights the importance of gender equality, women’s empowerment and their rights to healthier lives.

Ministry of Gender spokesperson Pauline Kaude commends NBM for its commitment to empowering women financially in line with the theme of inspiring inclusion.

She states: “One of the ministry’s mandates is ensuring that women are economically empowered. This development is a plus for us. If women are economically empowered, women will make meaningful contributions to the country’s economy.

“The ministry appreciates the good collaboration with FInEs. By complementing each other, we will capacitate women who lack the financial and technical muscle to do businesses like their male counterparts.”

NBM Development Bank Limited general manager Bernard Masi says the bank took a different approach to close the gaps that impede most Malawian entrepreneurs from accessing finance.

The main winners are small and medium enterprises, including women entrepreneurs.

When asked about the success stories of  Mabedi and Kathumba, Masi said: “We believed in their dreams and gave them a chance to realize those dreams.

“Today, we witness how the two women and many others have excelled in their businesses. As a development bank, we are here to change people’s lives and contribute to the development of this nation.”

NBM plc marketing and corporate affairs manager Akossa Hiwa is happy that with NBM support, the two enterprising women have achieved what they never expected to achieve within five years when access to capital was tricky.

“The bank places great efforts in ensuring women are empowered,” she says.

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