ECLOF Kenya is a middle tier microfinance institution serving the economically vulnerable people living in both urban and rural areas. It does so by availing both financial and non-financial products and services. Its aim is to contribute in alleviation of poverty and oppression of the economically marginalized people in Kenya.
It was registered as a microfinance company in 1994. It is affiliated to the ECLOF International, a global institution with headquarters in Geneva and a member of the Association of Microfinance Institutions of Kenya (AMFIK), an umbrella body of MFIs in Kenya. It has presence in over 66 per cent of the 47 counties with 44 outlets, serving about 60,000 clients. The CEO of ECLOF Kenya Mary Munyiri during an interview with StartUp Magazine tells their story.
“We realized that many people had been financially excluded. So we came in to bridge the gap left by funding Micro Small and Medium Enterprises (MSMEs) both in urban and rural areas. Our ultimate vision is to create a world of human dignity and prosperity made possible by our financial and related non-financial services,” says the CEO.
She adds, “We finance players across sectors ranging from agriculture,trade, commerce and service among others.”
ECLOF Kenya’s tagline is “The Microfinance with a Difference”, because we offer a personal touch to our clients. Our main competitive advantage is service delivery. Nothing is more important to us than a delighted customer. “We work very hard to ensure that we have a smiling customer at the end of the day,” affirms the CEO.
Acquiring and sustaining a loyal clientele base is a major concern for the microfinance. The team works tirelessly around the clock to meet the needs of customers and to capitalize on the competitive edge by providing tailor made financial solutions aligned to customers need. “Our products and services are tailored to meet the market needs. This is in addition to our service delivery approaches which are sensitive and unique to each client’s need,” she adds.
The development of a wide range of products among them agribusiness loans has enabled the firm to meet the needs of its clients including small scale farmers. Through product diversification, clients are able to make informed product choice decisions. “We impact lives and livelihoods by enabling these micro and small entrepreneurs to grow their businesses as well as their state of wellbeing,” emphasizes Mrs. Munyiri.
The financial products are classified into four broad categories: namely business loans, agriculture loans, social or support loans and personal loans.
Business loan is a working capital and business expansion facility for traders in retail, wholesale, manufacturing and service sectors. Agriculture loans on the other hand are for clients engaged in both livestock and crop farming. ECLOF Kenya finances various value chains including Dairy, horticulture, Fruits, Banana, Poultry, Oil Seed and Floriculture. All activities within the above value chains qualify for financing.
According to Mrs. Munyiri, social impact on the customer distinguishes ECLOF Kenya. Social loans have proved to be critical to the ultimate success of the firm’s clients. The loans ease the concerns of clients and allow them to focus on their core income generating activities.
Some of these social loans include; Education, Green energy, Water Sanitation and Hygiene (WASH), and micro health insurance (medical cover) loans. ECLOF Kenya clients have access to education loans that cater for school fees, stationery and school uniform. Financing is also availed for medical cover financing, a service offered by like-minded partners in the insurance industry. The clients also enjoy WASH loans that cater for; constructing decent pit latrines especially in the rural areas, sinking shallow wells to avail water for consumption, irrigation and livestock, acquisition of fully fitted water tanks for rain water harvesting and purchase of water purifiers to ensure that clients consume clean and safe drinking water. A loan facility is also availed for clients to upgrade from grass thatch to iron sheet roofs and gutters to harvest rain water.
The green energy financing also falls under the Social Loans category. The loans enable clients to buy solar lanterns and panels and energy saving cook-stoves as well as installation of biogas. In the long run, this helps them reduce the cost of energy and remain healthy
ECLOF Kenya is a competitive employer with very competent staff. The staff are hired and taken through an intensive induction process to prepare them effectively for the task at hand.
“Our staff meets clients on a regular basis across the country. We track clients’ development, ascertain their issues and address their complaints. We believe that a client should manage their finances well and our staff take a leading role to train our clients on financial literacy (including financial management, debt management, budgeting and saving). Now, this is what we call “high touch” ”
Despite the firm’s successful operations this far, Mrs. Munyiri observes that the industry has been riddled with a number of challenges. There is increased competition among microfinance players, new entrants as well as commercial banks downscaling to micro lending. She however shares her optimism: “We overcome this by continually improving our service delivery and listening to our clients more in order to gain their loyalty.”
The microfinance sector is very sensitive to social, economic and political upheavals and as such, the company has to keep tab with the developments in these fronts and advise clients accordingly. ECLOF Kenya works closely with communities to continuously educate clients as a coping mechanism and also build on their capacity to repay loans to avoid delinquency and defaults.
ECLOF Kenya will continue in its quest to pursue cost-effective models in a bid to scale up, serve more clients and offer financial services relevant to the market. This calls for a continuous self-evaluation and improvement to enable the company to continue availing quality services.