Sierra Leone Market Women Frown at Microfinance Companies
The this medium can emphatically confirmed that thousands of market women across Freetown Municipality and beyond have expressed their dismay over the exorbitant interest rates and compulsory bribery system exhibited by some of the Microfinance Companies in the country.
According to the various views of these market women, the Management of some of these Micro Finance Agencies usually imposes stiff criteria and unconditional charges to them in a disguise to exploit traders before they can access loans.
They said, the unlawful exploitations by these companies have made situations more difficult for traders to realize profit in their daily businesses due to the fact that they almost take half of their monies during documentation process.
In that regards, plenty of these traders have expressed their deepest dissatisfaction to some of these Micro Finance companies who are in the habit of charging exorbitant interest rate and other unexplained extra fees to traders, noting that they believe the intention of government for establishing these Microfinance scheme was to promote job creation and human capital development for Sierra Leoneans.
They further revealed that, most of these companies hire aggressive field officers who were working for their mangers to exploit traders by the setting up of envelop syndicates which they do not have options but to comply with whatever stiff conditions due to lack of capital to run their business. They continue that, some of these Micro Finance Companies also levy weekly payment instead of monthly, so that they can be able to extract more interest.
The aggrieved market women also disclosed that, on several occasions they were confronted by council officials to pay market dues although they said their councils never provide standard market structures for them so that they can be able to do their businesses in a conducive environment.
“We usually pay for various unexplained procedures just to fast tract our loan disbursement cycle .And that we were usually left with no option to decide whether to take the loan or not because we have our families to take care and our children were going to school .We were not protected by the Traders Union Executives as the body responsible to take care of our affairs”, Market women testify.
They commended few Micro Finance Companies including Salone Microfinance Trust (SMT) , Finance Salone Limited among other credible Micro Finance Agencies for cooperating with traders in all their operations across the country with adjust interest rate.
The dissatisfy market women appealed to local councils and the central government to provide standard market structures for traders wherein they can receive loans directly to government not to private partners .They added that ,if government construct markets ,they will fast track the planning of the country’s economy with the establishment of big economic zones and that most of these companies were operating illegally without observing due process in a way just to exploit traders for their selfish gains.
However, they are calling on the Ministry of Trade and Industry to put control mentions in place so that they will not continue to suffer from the hands of these unregulated Micro Finance Companies if only government is committed to the theme of this year’s budget that focuses on job creation and human capital development.
By Alhassan Bangura
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