Monday, July 14th
Four out of the five wheelchair users that are participating in my trial of the small-business wheelchair do not have their own bank accounts. They probably never needed them. But now that they are getting their businesses going and are starting to earn money back on the loans that I provided them, we came to a unanimous decision that they all needed to have their own bank accounts.
There are a number of banks in town, and although I have used the ATM services at many, I needed more information than that to figure out which one would be most suitable for our purposes. I talked to Abdullah and some other guys at KASI to find out their favorites, and then set out into town to visit each one. My first stop was Exim Bank which was almost too good to be true. The staff was friendly and knowledgeable, and the office was calm and not too crowded (something I wouldn’t find anywhere else). The minimum deposit is only 10,00 Tanzanian Shillings (about $8) and the monthly charges and ATM service charges are both very low. And as an added bonus, there are no steps to get into the office or outside ATM making it super wheelchair accessible. Even though I basically fell in love with Exim, I thought it was only fair to check out the other banks in town.
NBC (the National Bank of Commerce) was overwhelmingly crowded. To start an account you have to get a form signed by the equivalent of the local mayor and deposit 50,000 TSh (about $40). Despite all this, I give them major props for having a wheelchair ramp.
CRDB was my next stop and it was even more crowded than NBC. The staff were nice but you had to push your way through a crowd to get their attention. Bonus here was the TemboCard (tembo means elephant in Swahili) which is their ATM card with an adorable picture of an elephant on it!
Last, I checked out NMB (National Bank of Microfinance) which is actually across the street from where I’m staying, but I struck it off my list pretty quickly. You have to climb up 6 or 7 really steep stairs to get into both the office and the outside ATMs, and line for the ATM has at least 30 people in it at all times of day. Seriously. It seemed like a nice place but it’s simply not accessible, so it has to go.
We have to do some paperwork and get a whole bunch of passport size photos to open each of the new accounts, but hopefully by next week it should all be settled.