Beyond Lending, Helping Clients in Benin Learn to Save

Over the past month, I have been working with Kiva partner Alidé in Cotonou, the economic capital of Benin. I recently visited Henriette, one of Alidé’s long-standing clients. Henriette started out selling beverages on the side of the road, eventually opening a small shop in her home. After her husband died, she needed to find a way to expand her business so that she could continue to support her two children and her adopted nephew.

Henriette showing us a portion of her stock.

Henriette first heard about Alidé from friends in her neighborhood. “It was a good moment when we found microfinance,” she recounts, expanding on how her loans have helped her business grow. Over the past 5 years, Henriette has taken out a total of 8 loans with Alidé, gradually increasing the amount with each loan. She has now expanded her store to the point that she can buy in bulk and act as a low-cost distributer for others in her neighborhood.

“They helped us learn how to save.” – Henriette.

Many of Kiva’s partner organizations do more than simply provide loans. Henriette talks about how difficult it was for her to save money before she started working with Alidé. Savings accounts in banks are often not convenient for small-scale savers. Keeping money in the house is not always safe, and it is easy for savings to be eaten away by small daily expenses. Alidé provides its clients with a convenient way to save, as well as incentives to do so. Monthly savings are built into many loan contracts, making it easy to deposit money and make a loan payment at the same time. Alidé also provides interest and bonuses to savers.

With the help of her loan, Henriette can now buy in bulk!

Promoting savings accounts not only helps Alidé’s clients, but also Alidé itself. Alidé can use its clients’ savings to expand its own lending at a lower cost than with other outside funding. Henriette is effusive in her praise, saying, “We’ve become their partners. We work together.” With a thriving business and a growing savings account, she is now looking to expand her home.

By the end of our visit, Henriette had offered to be my "Benin mom"

Savings can help people reduce their vulnerability to shocks and build their assets. In light of its importance, Kiva awards a Facilitation of Savings badge to recognize institutions that help their clients save.

Click here for a list of loans from partners who have earned a Facilitation of Savings badge.

To find more loans from Alidé, click here.

About the author

Jennifer Turner

Jennifer has a longstanding interest in community organizations and international development. After college, she spent six years working, studying, and traveling throughout Asia, most recently working with a nonprofit children's library in Beijing, China. She is currently studying International Development in the School of Foreign Service at Georgetown University in Washington, DC. Jennifer is excited to serve as a Kiva Fellow in Benin and Togo and to see up close how microfinance can make a difference in people's lives.