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Senga Bay’s women of valour

ASSET—Msuku’s unfinished house — Pictures courtesy of Comsip

If there are some people who can inspire others that achieving economic success is as easy as flipping the back of your hand, then 39-year Monica Msuku of Senga Bay in Salima is one of them.

“Life is hard when you are clueless about how to solve your problems. Accepting a problem is even harder,” said Msuku, sounding so expansive while sitting comfortably on a sofa set in her house.

Surveying her big house, the furniture and other household items inside, I had the impression that the woman was one of the big shots in town, doing some white-collar job.

But she is not. Msuku is an ordinary woman but with some high level of business acumen.

After facing grinding poverty for many years, coupled with a heap of marital problems that eventually led to the end of her four-year marriage, Msuku looked for a better side of life.

In 2012, she joined Senga Bay Cluster, a local savings and investment grouping operating under the Community Savings and Investment Promotions (Comsip).

The same year, having contributed her shares after selling some household items, she borrowed K30,000 as business capital for a small business of selling mandasi [flitters].

“Profits started flowing and I paid back the loan in good time and increased my shares,” Msuku said.

In 2013, she switched to selling bales of secondhand clothes and beddings such as duvets and bed sheets. She borrowed another tranche amounting K150,000 to invest in this new business and managed to pay back the same year.

Msuku continued increasing her shares and by the end of 2013, she got K250,000 as dividends from shares.

Her business had grown that within the last three years, she has built a self-contained house that would take a middle grade public servant the whole pension to erect it.

When this reporter visited her house recently, the single mother of three children was in the process of constructing a septic tank at a cost of K100,000.

“Most of the works are complete. What is remaining is this septic tank and putting window glasses in the frames.

After that, I will start building a brick perimeter fence around the house,” said Msuku comfortably.

Recently, she also bought a sofa set from Lilongwe worth K250,000. As she narrated her successful journey in business, I could not help but envy her.

Here is a woman who has achieved so much in less than three years. She made my 12-year profession that has not brought anything worth pointing at look a waste of time.

Similarly, 39-year-old Amina Nkulama is another successful woman making it big with her various business ventures.

The married mother of four owns a retail shop at Senga Bay Trading Centre.

Apart from her house she put up in Senga Bay and the one she built for her mother at their home village in Chipoka in the same district of Salima, Nkulama has three more houses where she gets total rentals of K75,000 per month.

But it is the fishing business that is her major economic activity.

“I own a fishing vessel, a boat propelled by an engine, that I bought at K2.5 million and generates a lot of income for me,” Nkulama said.

She gets about K200,000 per month from the fishing business.

With that monthly income, Nkulama is dreaming big.

“My vision now is to buy a car to ease mobility challenges in my business,” she said.

Both Nkulama and Msuku pointed to the membership in Senga Bay Comsip Cluster as the genesis of their successful economic activities.

Formed in 2012 from two clubs of Madalitso and Tithandizane that did public works under Local Development Fund (LDF), the cluster has 51 women and two men as its members.

According to Chairperson for the cluster Ellen Chisiza, the grouping started by contributing K200 as a share.

“Every person was allowed to buy a maximum of five shares per month, which translated to K1,000,” Chisiza said.

It was in 2015 that the cluster started growing into an enterprising grouping when it received a grant worth K375,000 from Comsip for training.

“A total of 23 women were trained in financial literacy, business management and nutrition, health and sanitation,” Chisiza said.

The same year, the cluster received the second grant of K832,000 from Comsip again as a revolving fund.

Fourteen women benefited from this money as capital investment for their businesses and they paid back after three months with five percent interest.

As of December 2017, the cluster had K11 million as its income.

“Out of this sum, K8 million is interest that accrued from lending our shares which were K3 million in total,” said Chisiza, adding that they plan to share the interest among the members and continue lending the balance.

The cluster, which also has shares worth K150,000 on national level at Comsip Union, is seriously developing wealth for itself and the members.

More than a year ago, the group bought land valued at K850,000 and is planning to construct a cold room for storing fresh fish at a fee.

According to Chisiza, the cold room will also have a machine for making ice blocks that will be sold to people in the fishing business and other economic activities that require the use of such a product.

“We came up with this idea of constructing a cold room after seeing that many businesspeople had difficulties in keeping their fish fresh.

“Lack of proper storage facility resulted in most of the fish rotting, hence making losses,” she said.

With the direction the cluster is taking, it is no wonder that women such as Msuku and Nkulama are in another world where to some is just a fantasy; the world of economic success.

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