Thursday, 19 December 2013

Interview : Dr Saqib from Akhuwat

BFTF had the chance to interview Dr. Muhammad Amjad Saqib(founder of the social action charity Akhuwat) on Radio Dawn 107.9FM recently to talk about Akhuwats innovative interest-free microfinance project which has disbursed some 370,000 loans throughout Pakistan.

4 Key Principles of Akhuwat
Akhuwat in Pakistan
Akhuwat in the UK
Best Thing About the UK

4 Key Principles of Akhuwat
Dr Saqib began by outlining the four key principles of the Akhuwat microfinance programme:

1) Interest free loans to the economically poor so that they may acquire a sustainable livelihood: Once approved and assessed for viability, business plan loans are given to the economically disadvantaged as interest-free loans.

2) Use of mosques and churches, as centers : Working with local mosque and church infrastructure reduces costs, builds bridges with communities and provides a venue for training and outreach – with the church / mosque leaders often being Akhuwats biggest cheerleaders

3)A spirit of volunteerism : By fostering a spirit of volunteerism, Akhuwat strives to mobilize all members of the society to play their part in poverty alleviation.

4) Borrowers becoming donors : The Member Donation Program allows people who have received loans in the past to become, if they wish, donors helping others.

Akhuwat in Pakistan
Dr Saqib commented on how there had been many struggles to get the programme started, from a lack of capital (just £100), to getting sufficient people involved to getting mosques on board.

Imams were initially reluctant to get involved, and only really opened up when Akhuwat managed to get across the message that they were not a sectarian organisation, and that mosques had historically had the role of being meeting places where social work could be undertaken.

BFTF asked how the organisation covered the costs of administration and the effects of inflation. Dr Saqib responded by explaining that the organisation was very open with donors, and would tell them that if they gave 100rupees, 9 would go on admin etc and the rest would be disbursed. Eventually that 91 rupees would be repaid, of which 82 would be given out as a loan. When that 82 rupees came back, 73rupees would be given out again – so that the original donations of 100rupees actually became several hundred rupees worth or loans !

Dr Saqib also pointed out that the four key principles of Akhuwat meant that the organisation had costs of around 9% compared to over 20% for interest based microfinance organisations

Akhuwat is much more than just a loan distribution company. It also has a very strong social programme that works to pass on positive messages relating to ethical values, care for the environment, ethical values, participation in civil society and the value of education (especially for girls) – as well as providing career advice to the children of the loan recipients Dr Saqib explained that "poverty is not only financial – poverty is also social, poverty is also political poverty is also spiritual, it is also moral. Poverty has many dimensions …so this the reason we also give them a social agenda".

This is why mosques are important – they are a place to sit and engage in this dialogue

Akhuwat in the UK
The organisation has set up a base in the UK, and Dr Saquib suggested that any mosque in the UK that could identify some entrepreneurs, and had some members of the congregation willing to act as donors – then they could also replicate the Akhuwat model and help people take their first steps in business, hopefully to repay their loans so that more people can be helped out of poverty. Dr Saqib explained that Akhuwat had set up a number of management systems to help run such a scheme and were more than happy to share this information.

So the ball, as is often the case, is in the court of the UK masajid!

BFTF asked Dr Saqib, who had been the key influences in his life, who had been the people who had put him on this path.

He replied that it was difficult to name all the key influences, as every day seemed to bring a new teacher. Indeed, some of the most powerful teachers were the recipients of the loans, as they provided great examples of how people could create a life for themselves and haul themselves out of poverty despite many adversities.

Having said that Dr Saqib said that his mother had been an important influence and had taught him Dr Saqib to never indulge in anything illegal or immoral and always tell the truth

The Best Thing About the UK
Something that is asked of all guests on the BFTF radio show is what they think is the best thing about the UK. Dr Saqibs response to this question was:

"People are extremely hard working, something that we as a nation in Pakistan lack, we don't work hard. Also people are very, very honest, they don’t cheat anybody. I think these are two extremely important values.

This message I am taking from your country to Pakistan, to tell people that if you want to make a mark for yourself you must work hard and be honest with yourself and with others."

Sunday textile market on the sidewalks of Karachi, Pakistan

Image Source:Wikipedia

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