The South Pacific Business Development (SPBD) celebrated a double milestone reaching its 10th Anniversary and $100 Million Pa'anga in loans disbursement today, 22 November.
Employees and customers of SPBD gathered for prayers, hymns, and refreshments to mark the historic occasion at its office in Fanga, Nuku’alofa.
SPBD was established in Tonga in 2009 with the aim to eradicate poverty in the kingdom and across the Pacific by providing microfinance loans to empower women in poor rural villages with the opportunity to start, grow and maintain, sustainable income generating micro enterprises, build assets, as well as finance home improvements and childhood education.
SPBD President Mr Gregory Casagrande said since the business started, over $100 Million Pa'anga of unsecured credit had been provided to Tongan women entrepreneurs across nearly every village in the kingdom.
“To all these women, I extend my best wishes for continued success in your business ventures. I encourage you to continue to invest in your businesses and in your families – especially in your children’s educations. To my industrious team of 36 staff in Tonga, I say congratulations team on a major, unparalleled achievement in Tonga.”
To date, around 10,000 families had benefited from the loans disbursed, said SPBD General Manager Mrs Fine Tu’ipulotu.
“The loans provided have benefitted mothers who don’t have a job, and no assets to secure loans from commercial banks.”
Some members of SPBD now run two, three or four businesses, while other mothers who received only a primary school education can now say they have children who go to university, she said.
The first loan given today was to Lesieli Makaafi from ‘Ahau as part of the celebration. Lesieli has been a customer of SPBD since they first began operating in Tonga. She received a loan of $12,500 which she plans to use for her business where she makes and sells her handicrafts, and to help her husband with his taxi business.
“It is very easy to get a loan from SPBD. Much easier than the banks,” she said. "They have helped me alot."
Lesieli is part of the Lataha ‘Ahau Centre Women’s Group where 26 women in the area work together making handicrafts, which they sell to Tongans living in New Zealand, Australia, and USA.