So last time I was here I lent $160 to my friend Anthony. He changes US dollars in the Liberian dollars and sells phone recharge cards. We got to talking one day and I asked what he would do if he had more money. He told me he’d buy a chain saw, go into the country, cut down trees, come back, and sell them. This is what Anthony did before the war. I asked how much that would be and he said he’d need about $300. This was a little high for the young Etherton Micro Bank, so I asked what he’d do with $100. He said he’d buy a generator and use it to charge phone batteries.
I liked this idea. Since there is no power plant in Liberia (Except the one Firestone owns) and no power lines, most people here don’t have power. Power, or “current” as the locals call it, only comes from generators. With cell phones being sold as cheap as $25 a large group of people can afford a phone but not a power source. Lots of people have already made a business out of this, so I was pleased to make the loan given such a proven business model.
We did a little investigating, and realized he would need a generator, power regulator (to keep the cheap generator from frying the phone charges), phone charges, extension cord, and two-stroke gas and oil. This came to about $160. So we wrote up a nice little contract and signed it.
This time around Anthony showed me what he had done with the money he’s earned so far. For starters Anthony has a savings account at the local Ecobank branch. And he’s bought a house. It’s still under construction, but he’s a land owner. I was pretty excited for him, he was pretty excited too. He told me when it was built I would have to come over to, “Share in the fruits”, of the loan. I told him I wanted $160 fruit.
Whether he pays the loan back in June or not, I think the money has been put to good use.
P.S. check out this CNN article on General Butt Naked who I met last week.