When in 2008, Lift Above Poverty Organization LAPO was established in Sierra Leone as a micro finance bank, its original founder in Nigeria, Dr. Godwin Ehigiamusoe, took the right decision.
Today, LAPO Sierra Leone under the impressive stewardship of its MD, Gabriel Eshiague, has accomplished this mission of the founding father. He has won multiple awards, despite tough economic conditions of Ebola, COVID-19 and ongoing effects of Russia/Ukraine war, since he assumed office as MD, LAPO SL in 2013.
LAPO SL, is today, the fastest growing micro-finance bank in the country, about 95 per cent of its barrowers are women, 48 per cent in the rural areas. It has an average disbursed loan portfolio of about Le 105 Billion per year, concentrating in the trade and service sectors, particularly for women and the disadvantaged.
Due to the sterling performance, LAPO SL, has received the attention of the Bio-led administration, as one of the partners to implement the MUNAFA fund, introduced by the government to promote economic activities, particularly in the rural areas.
LAPO SL, has a staff strength of over 400, only 5 are Nigerians, the rest are Sierra Leoneans despite its origin and headquarters is in Nigeria, thereby promoting the local content policy of the Government of Sierra Leone. Over the years, LAPO SL has been impactful on the lives of Sierra Leoneans, from grass to grace. Presently, the company is the leading micro-finance bank, improving the quality of lives of the people, mainly through trade, thereby contributing to the growth and development of the economy through impressive returns on investment, dividend to shareholders, job creation, as well as tax to government.
In this interview with ABUBAKAR HASHIM, Gabriel Eshiague, MD LAPO SL,reveals the secret of his successful stewardship in Sierra Leone amid the difficult terrain of Ebola, COVID-19 and ongoing effects of Rusaia/Ukraine war.
LAPO is now the leading microfinance services provider in Sierra Leone. Could you explain the reason behind this trend?
Been the leading microfinance company in Sierra Leone does not come as a surprise. It does not come in a silver plate. It takes hard work and dedication to service delivery to reach this height. The company started its journey in Sierra Leone in 2008 with a single branch, but has today succeeded in establishing 35 branches across the country with a dedicated staff base of more than 400. It takes leadership, patience and dedication to service to reach such a height.
Sierra leone is currently embarking on post COVID measures to stabilise the economy. What aspect does LAPO undertake in these measures? –
COVID 19 has served as a cancan worm that has eaten deeply into the fabrics of the economy of Sierra Leone. Companies were shut down and business devastated seriously and the livelihood of many families left in moribund. Like during the post Ebola period in Sierra Leone, LAPO has been very resilient to endure the challenges of the pandemic by introducing new policies that helped to ameliorate the economic challenges faced by many Sierra Leoneans. As a post COVID measure, the company has introduced new policies to increase disbursement to the economically active people across the country. As a post COVID measure, the company has realized the fact that many Sierra Leoneans in the rural areas do not have access to loans to help them develop their businesses. As a post COVID measure, LAPO Microfinance Company is working on making financial services accessible to people in the rural areas in the country. The company is extending its loan activities to chiefdoms and villages across the country.
LAPO has vigorously pursued financial inclusion policy, not only in Sierra Leone, but in all its networking countries of operations. Please explain this policy.
Financial inclusion means that individuals and businesses have access to useful and affordable financial products and services that meet their needs – transactions, payments, savings, credit and insurance – delivered in a responsible and sustainable way. Working in line with the Bank of Sierra Leone on its financial inclusion policy, LAPO has created many branches across the country. It has created Deposit Taking centers in major District Headquarter towns and many branches in other remote areas to make loans and other financial services accessible to the ordinary people. The company intends to extend its operations to every chiefdom in the country to ensure that the rural people get access to financial education and financial services.
- Today, LAPO is the best microfinance institution, both in profitability and deposit ration. What is the magic wand?.
The magic behind LAPO been the best microfinance company in Sierra Leone and as the highest profit-making microfinance institution stem from the leadership of the company. The management of the company has provided the required vision for the unabated expansion of the company to unlimited opportunities. The company is being run by a focused and discipline leadership with the primordial interest of maximizing profits. Since the year 2008, the company has been very resilient in its focus to ensuring that our products and services reach the beneficiaries in a cost effective and innovative manner, thereby attracting more clients and invariably increasing the profits of the company.