Global Challenge – Opportunity International Blog 3

Two weeks in and the time had gone so fast. I suppose that shows that I’m having a good time. Work has continued to capture my interest everyday as new tasks and challenges occur. On the first two days of the week my task involved visiting clients and doing stock checks to help update the company records and to better help my analysis of the factors contributing to client defaults. I went out with the area manager Sicelo as he knows the clients personally as well as being able to speak Zulu (which is essential as for most of the clients this is their first language).

The client’s businesses were situated in the Locations and the Homelands. Driving out there you can see the obvious difference between the thriving city – where the head office is based – and the underdevelopment of the locations, however when you leave the main road you can see that first impressions can be deceiving. Some of the areas still lack running water and electricity, but this is offset by some lovely looking houses. One of the clients we went to visit was just finishing building a new house for himself and his fiancée with two bedrooms, a kitchen, living room and a bathroom with a shower. Places like this show you that there is development in the area and people are investing in their property but with a large amount of income inequality in the country it seems that this will be a slow process.

Visiting the businesses has to be the highlight of my work so far. The shop owners were really friendly and didn’t mind us poking around their shops too much. I got the chance to ask them questions about their work, about microfinance and the loans that they received from opportunity finance.
Doing the stock count I came across lots of products that I had never seen before – mostly food – but Sicelo was always there to notice my confused expression and explain. He was also great at answering all my questions about the area, the politics and the people. We spent a lot of the drives finding similarities and differences between South Africa and the UK – both of us being absolutely fascinated with the other’s country.

The rest of the week has been spent back in the office. I have continued to look at the loan data to try and find trends and come up with some good conclusions for Manfred. I have also been getting all the information from the shops we visited on to a spread sheet ready to add the follow-up information we get next week to it.

I have also had some time now to explore Pietermaritzburg. It is a busy but small city with lovely architecture. On the weekend I walked around the city centre in the hustle and bustle of a Saturday, did a bit of shopping and went to the art gallery. On Sunday me and Amanda from work drove up into to mountains to visit the Midland Meander – a mountain road lined with craft shops – we bought lots of local cheese and other bits and bobs. A very relaxing end to a busy week.

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About careersbham

Student Engagement Officer for Careers Network University of Birmingham

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