Winners anywhere – Global Citizens Program!

Last Friday, I finished my official assignment with Equity Bank in Dar es Salaam in Tanzania. Since then, I have explored the beautiful landscape and enjoyed the impressive wildlife of northern Tanzania.

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Ngorongoro crater

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Elephant in Lake Manyara N.P.

This was indeed a huge difference to my daily work at the bank. During my adventures, I also found time to think about my assignment and especially my take outs.

After my appreciation the knowledge transfer was the biggest contribution to all of the involved parties, regardless whether staff members, clients or myself. And then in particular my comprehensive report to the attention of the Senior Management with a lot of concrete suggestions in order to improve processes and products as well as to consider new products. Thanks to the assignment, Equity was able to benefit from a professional and independent assessment of the business and got in addition useful information provided by employees and customers.

Personally, I strengthened my listening and educational skills as well as my social competences. I did also learn how to life in a country with a lot of differences to my home country. The main challenges were: to come along with a different culture and functioning, to communicate with people without being capable to handle their mother tongue and to life with a different social class. Despite the differences, I will never forget the warm-hearted people and the numerous of excellent discussions, in- and outside of my work environment.

The assignment was a great experience, an all around success and left unforgettable footprints in my memory …

… and it will go on … off the record!

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Wish you all a peaceful Advent season in the company of your loved one.

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Nothing is endless – but there are unforgettable footprints left in my heart!

Yes, my volunteering assignment with Equity Bank Tanzania will shortly come to its end!

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Let me share the beautiful sunrise with you, that I enjoyed this morning, before I left my apartment for my last day at Equity Bank in Dar es Salaam.

My assignment was at the beginning quite a big challenge due to the cultural difference between Tanzania and Switzerland and due to my personal ambition, to make the best out of my assignment in favour of the staff of Equity Bank and its stakeholders.

Hence, I felt like standing the first time in my life in front of Mount Kilimanjaro with the goal, to climb it in an easy way while looking carefully after hundred of young Tanzanian followers with little experience. Luckily, we agreed to approach the summit step by step and kept the ultimate goal – the summit – at the present time out of our mind.

During my six weeks, I listened very carefully to my Equity colleagues, a lot of customers and other Tanzanian people. By questioning and challenging my colleagues, I got a good picture about the banking market, the Tanzanian economy, cultural aspects, the character of the citizens as well as the challenges and opportunities out in the market. Let us compare it with a complete picture about the physical and mental situation of my mountain climbers.

Based on many meaningful discussions and observations, I was able to conclude a comprehensive report with a numerous of concrete suggestions towards the Senior Management in order to become more effective and an unique market player in the banking industry.

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Customer meeting in Temeke (left) and hustle and bustle at Temeke market (right)

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Cotton factory in Mwanza (left) and view from my apartment at Sea View, Dar es Salaam (right)

I sincerely hope, that the Senior Management of Equity Bank will take the right decisions in order to remain successful and to outperform the competitors. So far they have been doing a great job. The biggest challenge is currently an effective structure that can handle the increased and planned business volume.

Based on many feedback received, I think my task was successfully accomplished.

Now, as my wife will be travelling to Dar es Salaam to enjoy some relaxing days off (something I missed so far), I will not be able to further guide the mountain climbers but I think the basis is now set up so that they can climb the mountain without my support.

I am happy to hear once they will overview the area from the summit.

This morning at the traditional church mass, I provided the staff symbolically with energy in form of a chocolate bar from Switzerland and a strong handshake.

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Equity team at Head Office, Golden Jubilee Towers, Dar es Salaam (picture taken on 2 December 2016

Now, I am looking forward to enjoying the wildlife at Ngorongoro crater and to relaxing at the beaches on Zanzibar. And of course, I am looking forward to give big hugs to my family, relatives and friends.

Ahsante sana and kwaheri Equity team!

And never forget: “Not things are positive or negative, but our attitude makes them so”, statement made by Epictetus a Greek philosopher, 50 – 138 AD.

A picture is worth a 1,000 words!

So, let me share the following pictures with you:

Sunrise in Dar es Salaam this morning at 6 am (featured image).

Golden Jubilee Towers, Ohio Street, Dar es Salaam

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My workplace in the Golden Jubilee Towers on the 3rd floor.

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Typical lunch – Makange ya Kitimoto na Ndizi – in Arusha  … and yes without cutlery. The waiter comes with a jar filled with water, liquid soap and a bowl for the washing of your hands. Normally, you do not get a napkin. So you just have to arrange yourself! Just practice and forget the rules you were taught by your parents … !

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Agent Office in Arusha. Agents are somehow the “extended arms” of the Banks. Via mobile the bank customer can deposit or withdraw money. The corresponding transactions are being handled by the Agents. The Agents offer also other services, especially account openings. Be aware that the Bank is normally not next door for most of the citizens and “cash is king” as credit cards and e-banking are very, very rarely used!

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Throughout meaningful discussions and a lot of customer meetings held! Two meetings in Mwanza.

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Branch in Zanzibar, opened in February 2016.

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So, at least 9,000 words … ! I guess, that is enough for now. Will be back shortly.

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Time for a change!

Wow, this was a very interesting but quite demanding week. During my fifth week I left Dar for visits at the branches in Mwanza, Moshi and Arusha.

At the airport in Dar, I first had to exercise my skills in patience which was quite a very big challenge. The staff at the check-in counter was very … very slow! Luckily, I had enough time.

During my visits up-country I had to travel with two different airlines. I do not know how to value, but the carrier with international influence, was much more efficient and the service was excellent. Also the pilot provided information about the journey. Maybe, I should have assigned for a real Tanzanian company. Equity Bank is namely under a strong influence of Kenyans, so it operates quite well.

When I arrived at Kilimandjaro airport I took first a deep breath, than the air was very fresh. Not to compare with the polluted air in Dar (especially due to the heavy traffic and bad quality of fuel … I do not want to know the Co2 emissions.

At the Branches I had a lot of meetings with staff members and customers. And yes it is true, I could onboard a new client that runs a cotton factory in Mwanza … and he referred me to a friend that owns a company in Arusha! So in case you live a best in class culture and you can decide quickly the customers will knock on your door!

So, if you want to run a bank in Tanzania successfully you must have a system that allows very fast decisions, because the customers do not want to wait. The borrowers expect the disbursement of the loan amount very quickly, preferably five days after the request was placed.

And if you do not perform the applicant will share the experience with his/her personal and business circles. The market is very transparent and the entrepreneurs know each other. So it is very important that you manage the expectations of your clients carefully.

Unfortunately, you can not reply on the financial statements as they often do not represent the truth. A loan request was declined due to an increase of debtors and a subsequently negative cash flow from operations.

When I asked the tour company about the high amount of outstanding debtors he said that this number could be the truth as he gets advance payments at least one month prior a tour takes place. So there should not be any outstanding debtors at all. I am still waiting for the underlying lists from the external accountant so that I can discuss with the credit risk department.

So you might ask yourself what are the criteria for a loan approval. Well here is the answer: account turnover, securities (120 % of the loan amount), credit history and soft factors (creditworthiness).

So it is quite different to my home country.

I am now teaching the relationship managers in regard to:

– a critical assessment of the financials and the budget,

– think about the industry, is the borrower a out- or under-performer and

– a business model (strengths, threats and protectors in regard to key factors like supply chain, customers, market, competitors or employees).

That is like being in uncharted waters. And I am very pleased to share my knowledge.

So, I guess that is enough for now!

Greetings from Dar

Remain flexible and think positive!

Well, today (Sunday) I just wanted to relax at one of the marvelous beaches around Matemwe and to load up my batteries, while basking in the sun. Zanzibar, a two hours ferry trip away from Dar, awaits the visitors with a time travel back to the kingdom of Persia and with cristal clear water. So, I was really excited!

But then everything turned out differently and I realized that my character has not changed during my assignment – means, I want to provide my applicant with the best results in regard to my assignment!

So, I decided to meet with the Branch Manager and Credit Manager of Equity’s Branch in Zanzibar. We discussed about the history, the huge cultural differences between the mainland and the island as well as about processes at Equity Bank.

Well, I missed the beach and my trunks remained untouched. But I was able to experience Zanzibar like a local person. In addition, I got a lot of important statements in regard to my assignment, such as: a) loss of at least two banking days while sending loan documents for approval to the Head Office, b) lack of knowledge in regard to the different law in Zanzibar and c) as there are 90 % Muslims living on the island there seems to be a need for products respecting the Scharia law. Well this will be a challenge for the Management as there is a ban on interest.

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This is also Zanzibar. So it is not all that glitters gold. There a big challenges in regard to infrastructural facilities. The very long building (picture below) was built around 1967 when Tanzania was ruled by socialism. The residents do not have to pay a monthly rent. The government built the house (there are many houses of this kind) for the people that lived there in simple quonset huts. So they gave the land ownership to the government and got in return the right to live in the apartment for free.

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Next week, I will be visiting the Branches in Mwanza, Moshi and Arusha.

Take care and remain positive, especially in case things turn differently. You know: Things are never positive or negative, it is only a question how we approach them.

Overwhelmed with emotion!

Imaging you are visiting a private primary school in Mbagala, where the kids have never seen a person from outside of their very busy village or home country.

And exactly that happened to me, when I arrived together with the Branch Manager of Equity Bank Mbagala at the Kamo Nursery and Primary School.

I just wanted to hear the customer’s perception about the service and the product range of Equity Bank and than I was overwhelmed by the heart reception of kids.

Phew, I was really touched. When I left the car to see the Management of the school I was immediately surrounded by more than 200 happy kids of the Kamo Nursery and Primary School.

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They all wanted to great and hug me! What for an unforgettable moment for the school and myself!
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Although Tanzania was founded by a teacher, Julius Nyerere, it still counts to the countries with the lowest education level. Main reasons are: lack of educated teachers, schools and money.
So, I decided to financially support the visited school. With the help of Equity Bank and the Branch Manager I have the guarantee that money will be invested in the interest of the kids.
If you want to join me, let me know.
That is all for now. I will come with other great stories shortly.

What makes you successful?

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Greetings from Akemi restaurant in Dar, downtown

During my time in Tanzania I have asked a lot of questions. But recently, I was asked by one of the Branch Managers what my three factors of success are. I was quite surprised but answered spontaneously as follows:

– Be yourself anytime! When you look into the mirror you should recognise yourself, without any doubt. And also your family and friends should you recognise as unique person.

– Be committed from bottom up. Keep promises and no excuses!

– Be never tired to go the extra mile and leave emotional footprints.

What are your three factors of success? Feel free to share with me. I will than share the answers with my Tanzanian friends at Equity Bank.

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Busy Fishmarket in Dar on a Sunday

By the way one of my take-out’s:  Be anxious about your behaviour anytime. You are being continously observed by people. This is what I experience daily as I am most of the time (99.5 %) the only “musungu”. In addition, I also have to carefully consider what I say becuase my conversational partners are carefully listening and (highly) value my statements. Imagine you are the teacher of a primary school in Mbagala! Please “google”.

More information will come shortly.