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Former banker turns retirement payout into a small bank

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[dropcap]M[/dropcap]oney most problems people face daily. Having the capacity to provide this solution turn out too be the best part of being an entrepreneur for Peter Macharia, the founder and CEO of Jijenge Credit Limited, a lending company.

With a spreadsheet that runs into millions of shillings, Mr Macharia’s customer base is growing in Kenya, Sudan and in Tanzania.

After 25 years of employment in banking that ran from sales, marketing, credit, finance and operations, Mr Macharia decided to take a voluntary retirement package and started Jijenge Credit in 2014. “In the credit department your work on targets that are very specific,” he says. “My performance in terms of targets was very consistent and upward moving.”

He measured the profit he was generating for the bank against his salary and it wasn’t so pretty. He decided to leave and make the profit for himself.

Mr Macharia settled on the name ‘Jijenge’ a swahili word that means ‘build yourself’ which is what every business person aspires for.

Mr Macharia started off lending money to small enterprises and businesspeople such as mama mbogas with as little as Ksh5,000 with the highest borrower getting Ksh30,000. Jijenge Credit now loans up to Sh500,000 across the East African region.

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With institutions adapting to new technologies, Jijenge Credit has a mobile lending services for its customers. Documents required for loan processing are scanned or sent via email. This, according to Mr Macharia, is to meet requirements set by the Central Bank of Kenya.

The credit company then sends a loan agreement via email to its qualified clients for signatory purposes before disbursing the money through the traditional bank. “We use a different strategy from other mobile lenders as we combine the traditional banking and digital. We ensure that we meet the set requirements and anti-money laundering rule and we must ensure that fraud is minimized to zero,” says Mr Macharia.

The company has tracking technicians and valuers who assess an applicant’s assets before a loan is issued.

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The soft spoken father of four girls, however, did not dream of working in the micro-finance sector while growing up. He, in fact, wanted to follow his father’s footsteps and become a public health officer. “I was good in maths unlike my dad who was good in sciences. When I realized this I decided to follow the numbers,” he says.

The micro-finance sector, according to him, has good returns which need to be well managed. “In the credit industry one can make profits and some mistakes can lead to significant loses, You do not lose hope but find a way to overcome the challenge,” he notes.

Having a strategy that you follow religiously is the path to success, notes Mr Macharia. “Having knowledge in finance and risks assessment on the business are vital skills one should have when embarking on the micro-finance industry,” says Mr Macharia.

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He attributes his success to God, discipline, resilience, consistency and knowledge in the industry. “Success is when Jijenge holds people’s hand and helps them grow, especially the youths and our employees,” he adds.

The Jijenge has a board of directors chaired by Ms Brenda Njeri, which drives operations. The alumni of Kenya Methodist University hints that entrepreneurship is the train Kenyan Youths should board since it provides platform to grow in business and in personal life.

“Having access to credit enables businesses to expand thus acceleration of growth in the economy and job creation. On individual level, one is able to save, borrow and manage their finances,” says Mr Macharia.

Running his own business means he has time for personal affairs. “When I was in employment, I had very limited time with my family since at times i worked very far away from home. But right now they are very happy that I am around from Monday to Monday,” he chuckles.

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Brenda Gamonde
Brenda Gamonde
Brenda Gamonde is reporter with Business Today. Email: [email protected]
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