Francis Mbewe's New Entry

Francis Mbewe's New Entry: "The Journey From Poverty to Financial Autonomy"

Chipata, ZambiaChipata, Zambia
Year Founded:
Organization type: 
nonprofit/ngo/citizen sector
Project Stage:
$10,000 - $50,000
Project Summary
Elevator Pitch

Concise Summary: Help us pitch this solution! Provide an explanation within 3-4 short sentences.

We are a Social Enterprise working with women to break the cycle of poverty at household level by creating sustainable ventures that transform our communities and creating employment.  

WHAT IF - Inspiration: Write one sentence that describes a way that your project dares to ask, "WHAT IF?"

One women, regardless of her background can increase her daily income by 500%; What if we did it for 1 Million more?
About Project

Problem: What problem is this project trying to address?

Zambia is among the 34 least developed countries in Africa . Most families cannot afford to finance their children's education. Girls are even less likely to be educated as they are married off due to high school drop out. This has created a large sum of women who are uneducated, jobless and facing extreme poverty. These women see opportunities, however, banks discourage them from innovation by refusing them loans due to luck of collateral.

Solution: What is the proposed solution? Please be specific!

With a large population of women who are uneducated, jobless and facing extreme poverty; our solution is to create more jobs and opportunity for alleviation of poverty. Firstly we have training program were we host business classes in basic business management, record keeping and leadership, that are followed by business plan preparation. The business plans are studied by our team and the most innovative and bright idea is funded. Secondly once a woman is funded we help her start "The Journey from Poverty to Financial Autonomy" by helping her graduate from our program to conventional banking services. These two programs help women to work their way out of poverty and face future challenges in running a successful business.


Engineer Without Borders Africa Junior Fellowship Award
Impact: How does it Work

Example: Walk us through a specific example(s) of how this solution makes a difference; include its primary activities.

Nelly is living on less than $2 per day. She joins the Community Social Credit Group of 20 Member. She is trained in business skills and record keeping. After 5 days of training, she is given a peer group guaranteed loan of USD$50 to start her innovative African Polon enterprise and opens a savings account with a local bank. With the Saving Account she now can save for emergences and grow her assets. She now has money to buy nutritious food for the family, pay for children school supplies and also invest in their health. She repays the loan within 3-6 months and apply for a larger amount to expand her business. After 2 years she graduates from our Program and recommended to apply for larger amount from her conventional bank.

Impact: What is the impact of the work to date? Also describe the projected future impact for the coming years.

To date, MSF has taught business skills and record keeping to 270 rural and slum women. We have aided 85 women to start their own innovative businesses through micro loans. The 85 borrowers doubled their income within just 3 months of entering the loan program; household saving rate have increased and nearly 100% of borrowers have reported improving household nutrition. Borrowers' businesses have grown to employ local help and market goods beyond their community. In the next three years, we aspire to have worked with at least 2,000 women raising their average daily income from USD$1 per day to USD$10 each day, through funding their innovative enterprise ideas.

Spread Strategies: Moving forward, what are the main strategies for scaling impact?

With this income, women will be able to afford more daily expenses and on top of that be able to afford educational fees for their children, health costs and household nutrition. This means 12,000 children will definitely be educated and girls will be protected from early marriage. In 5-10 years, we will have expanded to various communities throughout Eastern Province, impacting 10,000 women with seed capital, helping them on the journey from poverty to financial autonomy. This program will also bring system change in the way conventional banking services are delivered to the poor.

Financial Sustainability Plan: What is this solution’s plan to ensure financial sustainability?

Our project's model is a social enterprise. we invest in Community Social Credit Group funds in loan form with an interest payable weekly within 3-6 months. The revenue from every loan released to a woman is at 16% which is reinvested to generate more revenue for our enterprise and also issue more new loans

Marketplace: Who else is addressing the problem outlined here? How does the proposed project differ from these approaches?

In Zambia, there are many micro finance institutions and Non governmental organizations working to empower women from rural and slum communities. The major challenges is how their programs are designed, failing to reach the women who need the assistance more. Our Model is unique because our focus is on the innovative idea of this woman and helping her start the Journey from poverty to financial autonomy. The other unique approach is the graduating of our borrowers to conventional banking , exposing them to the possibilities of acquiring larger loans.

Founding Story

I grew up in rural Zambia, and was raised by my great grand mother. I saw how she struggled to put food on the table for me and my siblings to eat. i visited many aunties homes and the problem was just the same. my dream was to study something that could help me understand the complex of poverty in rural Zambia. After 10 years, with my first Degree in Development Studies and a two Diplomas in Micro finance and Project Management, i was eager to reach out and provide solutions. When i researched, i discovered women in rural communities are excluded from the financial services due to failure to produce collateral. i decided to change this.It looked impossible but here we are, we are doing it!


We are a Team of 10; five are full time while 5 are volunteers. The roles that are currently covered are: Program Director; Accountant; Community Center Manager; Training Specialist; and Client Relationship Officer. We also have 2 Americans who volunteer as Advisors on social media campaign, fund arising and other tasks. We are a team ready for any task and challenge
Please confirm how you heard about the Unilever Awards:

Through Opportunity Desk.

Please confirm your role in the initiative (eg Founder/co-Founder) and your organisational title:

Founder & Program Director

Which of the 8 UN Global Goals (Sustainable Development Goals) pre-selected for this competition does your solution relate most closely to? [select all that apply]

No Poverty, Zero Hunger, Gender Equality, Decent Work and Economic Growth, Responsible Consumption and Production.

Leadership and the Unilever Awards
Please provide examples of any previous entrepreneurial initiatives you have pioneered.

Am a champion of social change and i believe ending poverty begins with identifying problems and turning them into social businesses. Am a graduate of development studies and holds diplomas in Micro finance and Project Management. My passion for women empowerment and my drive to contribute towards ending poverty will make me succeed with this project. Am also a Ambassador of System Change with the Engineers without Borders Canada in Zambia. System Change has taught me how to deliver services in a way that many people benefit. This is really a dream come true and am sure this is a plus for me to succeed with this project

Beyond your existing team, who else are you working with to achieve your objectives, eg partners, advisors, mentors?

Am currently working as an African Junior Fellow with Engineers without Borders Canada and they are very supportive and always provide advise to me on social projects. from the Engineers without Borders, i have a pool of mentors and advisors who are going to be very much of help during this project.