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Christians Plot Against Poverty

01.01.70

The African Christian in Development (ACID), which started 20 years ago, has been transformed from an HIV/Aids non-government (NGO) into a micro credit limited company, that helps to fight poverty by giving loans to vulnerable communities. The Chief Director, Mr Aaron Siribalekera speaks to Business Power's Ephraim Kasozi about its aspirations.

How did you conceive this idea?

It was after realising that even if government had a policy to fight poverty, it lacks the means to actively involve Church as an institution in the development process. Hence my struggle to create a Christian initiative to share the burden with the government. ACID came on the scene after examining the government's strategies and comparing them with the Christian teachings.

What strategies have you adopted to fight poverty?

We wanted to grow from an HIV/Aids organisation so as to enable people earn a living through self-reliance. I did a lot of research to help poor people and orphans. I changed Venture Capital Consultants into Village Credit Committee and Aids Control Programme to African Credit Programme.

I conceived of Poverty Alleviation Programme (PAP) as Project Affiliate and Partners and from other people's money (OPM) to our people's money (OPM).

Indigenous Donor Allies changed to International Donor Agencies and from Christian Development Centres to Community Development Centres.

What have you done through ACID?

Through ACID I created bureaus, schemes, centres and alliances as strategies to enrich my vision. Through these bureaus, people access education (Education Savings Bureau) and medical (Medical Savings Bureau) while the schemes give people access to soft loans through cooperatives hence giving birth to self sustenance scheme for the poor.

For the Christian centers, we use church premises and the community centres for the communities to utilise for development purposes.

Children gather there after school for skills development.

The centers are meant to develop and connect the local people to the Internet via the computer center.

Because every one needs a computer, that is why we want to start up a computer plant to facilitate the system.

The Alliances have been registered to involve youths in development and to solicit for donor assistance.

Alliances also give chance to 500 groups of women and widows to access loans with no interest under a strategy called Women and Widows Alliance (Wodawa).

How and where is the system working?

Each group comprising of at least 20 women gets $1000 (about Shs1.8 million) at no interest. The system is currently operational in 10 districts from the different parts of the country to promote investment.

The beneficiaries of the soft loans are registered members of ACID.

Led by a business trainer, ACID also initiated the modern housing alliance for the construction of houses for the poor and low-income earners on a mortgage basis.

About 700 houses each valued at $2,500 (about Shs 4.5 million) are being constructed in the districts of Ntungamo, Rukungiri, Mbarara in western Uganda; and Mukono, Kiboga and Masaka in the central region. Over 1,500 houses for loans are under construction to be re-paid within three years and above.

The mult-imillion project would enable women acquire better housing facilities and hence improved livelihood.

The company also spends Shs400 million on a fully-fledged education programme for 3,000 children countrywide.

What is the capacity of the beneficiaries of ACID?

ACID has over 30,000 registered adult beneficiaries, these include members in Kenya and Burundi that have just been brought on board.

Also ACID have 20,000 children in and out of school getting support out of which 3,000 are fully funded at different education levels.

What could be the challenges that you have met?

The main one is the predominant mentality among Christians that their riches are in heaven, which in a way has delayed people's response to the fight against poverty.

Then there is a culture that says women are servants of men, sectarianism, tribalism and rigidity coupled with political interference are some of the issues that have undermined our efforts.

Those are some of the challenges that largely led me to register ACID as a limited company.

What is Venture Capital Consultants all about?

Venture Capital Consultants (VCC) is a US- based money lending company owned by International Investment Bankers.

In 1997, I was linked to VCC by International Investment Bankers and given duty to represent them in Africa to recommend people who were seeking for huge loans of $500,000 and above.

This led me to open up an office at the then International Conference Center in 1997 through which I carried out research to lay strategies to enrich my mission of helping the poor people.

So what is the way forward for your company?

Through women tax owners Alliance, over 600 women countrywide have registered for the plan to involve them in transport industry, mechanical services, driving and car washing.

By this more ladies will be involved in the transport sector. After registering success in the struggle to uplift the poor people in Uganda and expanding to other countries, the same services are now needed outside Africa.

I have drawn a plan to form a joint ACID called Alliance for Christian in Development comprising of Africa, USA and Asia.

"Arrangements to launch ACID in the US next year are underway before it is launched in Asia in 2008.

We also have plans to start a transport service sector for women, a computer assembling plant, village banks, loans interests, 20 schools, hospitals, and shopping malls and plans for modernized agriculture are complete. According to our targets, we hope to have a turnover of $1 million (Shs1.8 billion) by 2011 .

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