We started our day at Auction Holdings Employees SACCO. They are a “common-bond” SACCO, which means that they serve employees of Auction Holdings Limited, but also employees several tobacco processing plants. “Common-bond” is a safe way for a closed bond SACCO or Credit Union to begin expanding its membership base, without being completely open-bond.
Auction Holdings is in the process of moving to a computerized banking system, which is being implemented there and at 5 other SACCOs in the country. It’s a very exciting time as currently most SACCOs are completely paper-based which can be very time consuming to many different employees from tellers right up to managers. We started the day with Patrick who is the SACCO accountant. In addition to managing the current paper-based accounting, he also supervises the two tellers. Like the employees of Fodya SACCO, much of Patrick’s day is spent reconciling entries and struggling to keep up with increased workload Auction Holding’s increase in membership has brought.
We were able to speak with the SACCO Manager, Grace, who had actually visited my part of Canada through the CCA Women’s Mentorship Program! Grace was able to spend time with the fine folks at Valley Credit Union in Nova Scotia and I think they would be proud of the influence they have had on Grace’s management. Grace recognizes the need for increased marketing and the importance of a concise strategic plan. It was easy to tell that the SACCO board has tremendous faith in Grace as a manager and I only hope that we have such a positive influence on their SACCO.
I was also fortunate to speak with Auction Holdings SACCO’s newest employee, their IT person Macdonald. Macdonald is tasked with guiding Auction Holdings Employees SACCO through the transition from paper-based to a computerized banking system. The amount of preparation and enhancements to the SACCO’s infrastructure is more than significant but Macdonald seems willing and able to take on these challenges. It was also nice to just talk with another IT geek, though I think Erin was getting a little bored!
My favourite part of our SACCO visits has been speaking with the members. It is such a rewarding experience to hear their stories of how the SACCO has impacted them and hear them speak about their thoughts regarding what the SACCO is doing great and what they might change if they could. I believe the true measure of how a SACCO or Credit Union is doing is not just assets or profit, but also the opinion of the members who use its services. In all these cases Auction Holdings seem to be doing very well.
We wrapped up the day with Mike and David from the board taking Erin and I as well as the staff out to an “asian fusion” (Erin’s term, not mine) restaurant called “Blue Ginger”. It was a great evening and it was a lot of fun to talk about Canadian weather and culture from their perspective. From explaining how we move around in -30 Celsius temperatures to whether Canadians are “all from the same tribe” to “Why we day ‘Hi’ to everyone”, it was a lot of fun to share a bit more of Canada with our wonderful hosts.
As we were leaving, it struck me that I am really starting to appreciate the people of Malawi. There is a true sense of pride they have in being, and remaining a peaceful country. As Canadians, we feel overall that we are a friendly nation, but I think we pale in comparison to the openness and kindness in the face of adversity that so many Malawians display.
It’s not hard to see why Malawi truly is “The Warm Heart of Africa”!
Until next time,