Magazine article Anglican Journal

PWRDF Invests in Microcredit; Investment Turns Landowners into 'Backyard Entrepreneurs

Magazine article Anglican Journal

PWRDF Invests in Microcredit; Investment Turns Landowners into 'Backyard Entrepreneurs

Article excerpt


Lapologa! The Sotho sign on the otherwise bare walls of a tiny watering hole in the neighbourhood of East Orlando invites neighbors to one of a handful of plastic patio tables and 'refresh themselves' with a cold drink.

This backyard business offers Sydney and Maria Majodina minimal income to support three unemployed children, ages 29 to 37, and four grandchildren. The entire family shares a matchbox-size house next to a small pub in this Soweto neighbourhood.

Until recently, the family also generated additional income from renting several corrugated steel shacks cramped between the pub and their tiny bungalow. Mr. Majodina says, "Often there wasn't enough food in the house." He says he constantly worried about paying electricity and water bills. Enter Blue Dot Housing, a microfinance organization based in Johannesburg and run by a group of young blacks dedicated to social change.

This spring, the Majodinas recognized opportunity when Blue Dot offered them an equity loan to replace their backyard shacks into a brick-and-mortar rental unit. Once completed, the new building is expected to generate sufficient income to start paying off the mortgage while also boosting family income.

Leslie Matlaisane, finance director at Blue Dot and also a member of St. Mary's Anglican Church of Pretoria North Parish, says, "We turn landowners into backyard entrepreneurs."

After being turned down by commercial banks, Blue Dot recently inked a deal with Oikocredit to obtain start-up capital for the new equity loan program.

Oikocredit was founded in 1975 at the initiative of the World Council of Churches. The not-for-profit organization provides denominations, churches, and individuals with an opportunity to buy investment products which offer credit and capital to impoverished people in the developing world. Hundreds of churches and individuals, including many in Canada, have now invested more than $250 million around the world in projects such as Blue Dot Housing.

Jill Martin, finance team leader of the Primate's World Relief and Development Fund (the development arm of the Anglican Church of Canada, which is also a member of the World Council of Churches), says PWRDF invested in Oikocredit in 1998 when it allocated 20 per cent of its reserve capital to socially responsible investments. …

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