Birima is a new microfinance institution (MFI), founded by Youssou Ndour, the Grammy-winning musician from Senegal (see a special music video featuring Youssou Ndour and other international celebrities produced for the launch of Birima Microfinance here). The institution derives its name from king Birima Ngoné Latyr Fall who reigned over the Kingdom of Kajoor from 1855 to 1859. King Birima was known as a man who spoke rarely, but always kept his word. To this day, his name stands for the obligation of the Senegalese population be understated, only promising to do what they can deliver on, and the importance to keep one’s word and promises made.
Birima aspires to stand apart from most existing microfinance institutions in Senegal by focusing more in medium sized loans to promote an emerging entrepreneurial middle class, rather than merely focusing on very short term micro-loans and groups-lending which is already offered by many development and NGO backed MFIs (see Youssou Ndour talk about his vision for Birima Microfinance here). This decision was a deliberate one to add diversity to the market for loans to micro and small entrepreneurs, and to provide a source of capital to emerging small businesses, which rapidly outgrow traditional microfinance institutions. Thus, Birima and MyC4 quickly recognized an opportunity to partner, given a shared mission and vision to promote sustainable business in Africa, and a mutual understanding of the need to educate the world of the potential for these entrepreneurs to act as an engine for African growth. In line with this, Birima has partnered with Benetton to create a global marketing campaign, highlighting hardworking African entrepreneurs.
Thus, in partnership with MyC4, Birima has set a target to extend loans ranging primarily from €2,000 to €10,000 to individual entrepreneurs and businesses, over a longer horizon than is currently available on the market, at rates that will be fair and competitive, and with conditions that make them accessible to local entrepreneurs. The target entrepreneurs has proven their capabilities as business people, and will be supported both financially, but also with project follow-up and advice, to further increase their chances of success.
To complete its mission, Birima has retained the services of a local financial consulting firm, Financiere Africaine (FA). In its role as advisor to Birima and Youssou Ndour, FA is helping Birima identify and retain key talent and management, and also supporting Birima in the creation of new and more effective project evaluation and follow-up procedures, for the target market of small and medium sized companies. In addition to supporting the initial due diligence work, FA also provides project follow-up and advisory services to both Birima and the entrepreneurs themselves.
More information about Birima is available in French at www.birima.org.