Our mission is poverty alleviation in South Africa. We strive towards this mission primarily through the provision of enterprise micro credit to women living in poor, rural communities.
Identifying the women who would benefit most from our micro credit program is central to our mission. To understand whether we’re achieving our poverty outreach goals, we use two tools: the Poverty Probability Index (PPI) and the Participatory Wealth Ranking (PWR). The PPI is an industry-standard poverty assessment survey which gives us the likelihood that a household lives below a certain poverty line. The PWR, on the other hand, uses a relative definition of poverty established by stakeholders within the community.
SEF employs a group-based lending methodology patterned after the Grameen Bank of Bangladesh. Potential members form themselves into groups of five, which are rigorously tested before they are officially recognized. Upon recognition groups are eligible to apply for loans, which they collectively guarantee.
While SEF does not provide savings services, it requires members of both programs to accumulate regular savings through a Post Office Savings Account. SEF has no direct control of or access to the group savings. Through the savings plan, the borrowers build up a fund which they can fall back on when faced with mishaps or tragedies.
Currently 99% of SEF’s clients are female. Typical enterprises include hawkers of fruits and vegetables and new or used clothing, small convenience shops, and dressmakers. On average, each business employs 1.4 individuals, including the owner, on a full-time or part-time basis.
Monitoring and evaluating social performance is a key part of our operations. It is not enough to assume positive social performance simply by maintaining high rates of retention and loan repayment. By collecting new PPIs on a sample basis, we seek to understand whether our clients’ financial situations are improving over time. We balance PPI data with more qualitative data obtained through client satisfaction surveys, exit surveys, and ad hoc research projects. We’re always seeking better ways to understand our social performance in the communities we serve.