This is a story of one of Kiva’s borrowers, a slice of life in Antananarivo, or Tana as locals call it. Above all, this is a story, or rather a lesson, for all of us, of resilience and determination.
This is the journey of Tsilaviniaina, a 21-year-old young man who I met during a field trip with CEFOR, Kiva’s field partner in Tana. Tsilaviniaina's story is the story of many of his age, of too many of them in fact. Hope, grief, joy, responsibilities, family solidarity, entrepreneurship.
Yes, an omnipresent entrepreneurship. As if Madagascar’s anarchical environment was the perfect ground to let entrepreneurship flourish. When entrepreneurship means survival. When access to capital means the hope to get out of extreme poverty.
Some of you might remember Tsilaviniaina. He took a small loan through Kiva to buy Kito style sandals for his business. I am supposed to meet him to do a borrower verification and so I'm expecting to go to the market where he works. Imagine my surprise and confusion when I start wandering down the streets of a slum instead, not exactly the way to the local market.
Finally, here he is, at home.
Please, let me introduce you to Tsilaviniaina.
‘I’m 21 now. I am the eldest of three, I have two younger brothers. Dad used to sell sandals at the market. He had a small stand on the street, and I used to go with him to help during school holidays. Mum is a washerwoman, she works 3 days a week.
Dad died in 2010. I was just 14, and I became the Head of the family. Mum couldn’t manage to cope with the three of us at school. Although I was doing well, I had to quit when I was in 7th grade and I started working. Somebody had to help mum, I was the eldest.
The sandal business was an obvious choice for me, I didn’t find it difficult. I knew the nuts and bolts of the business from the time when I helped Dad. Since my aunt was in the same business too, I went to help her and earned a bit of money to bring home.
When I turned 18, I decided to partner with two of my friends to have our own stand. I was the more diligent so I went to CEFOR to get my first loan and it worked well. CEFOR even helped me and taught me how to manage my money. They also have a supervisor who keeps in touch with me, to see how things are going. It really helps. I repaid my first loan in full and I took a second one. It went equally well. I was in business! But then I realised that the profit we generated as a group wasn’t enough to share and make a good living. It was only about AR 5,000 per day ($1.50).
I decided to take the plunge on my own, with the support of my mum. Because I was the one with the good loan track record, I was granted a third loan with CEFOR and Kiva, a bigger one for AR 700,000 ($220) in November 2015, and I bought 200 shoes on my own. That was Christmas, and it worked very well the first few weeks, I tripled my daily profit.
But then, in January 2016, the city borough in Tana where I had my shoes stall decided to get rid of all on-the-street sellers.
They wanted to make an example.
They came on our street one early morning, and they took everything, every single pair of shoes. I had nothing left. I went to complain a few times in the following weeks. I tried to get my stock back. A waste of time. God knows where these shoes are now. I was just starting to pay my loan back, and I still had 9 monthly repayments to make and no more income. I had nothing to sell anymore and everything to pay back. I didn’t know what to do.'
The story unfolds here: I, Tsilaviniaina, 2/2