Aiming for poverty reduction through microfinance

Shotaro Sasa, third grader of Faculty of Law



―法学部年 佐々翔太郎さんに聞く―

Days in Myanmar, Sasa and local kids.
Days in Myanmar, Sasa and local kids.

Microfinance is a general term for financial services that provide the poor with small loans at relatively lower interest rates. It has come to be widely known when Muhammad Yunus, the founder of Grameen Bank in Bangladesh, won the Nobel Peace Prize in 2006. Hakumon Herald interviewed Shotaro Sasa, a third grader of the Faculty of Law, who studies microfinance.



-Tell us about your present activity.



Sasa: I am engaged in microfinance for refugees in Japan at the Entrepreneurship Support Program for Refugee Empowerment (ESPRE), which is one of the country’s public interest incorporated associations. There are a lot of refugees in Japan. They fled to Japan without any of their belongings. They often have no credibility which is necessary to get a loan. Despite their socially and financially impoverished circumstances, they do need to have chances just as ordinary Japanese do. At ESPRE, I make use of its microfinance system to provide those refugees with loans and management support, encouraging them to become independent financially.

佐々翔太郎さん 公益社団法人難民起業サポートファンド(ESPRE)で、国内にいる難民のマイクロファイナンスに携わっています。日本にも海外からの難民がたくさん住んでいます。身一つで逃れてきたこれらの人たちは、財産もお金を借りるための信用もありません。社会的、財政的に過酷な状況に置かれた難民たちにも一般の国民と同じようにチャンスが必要です。私はESPREでマイクロファイナンスという手法で、国内の難民たちに融資や経営支援を行い、彼らの自立を促しています。


-What made you interested in microfinance?



Sasa: I came to be interested in it when I visited Myanmar as part of my Faculty of Law classes. Since I had known the concept of microfinance before then, I chose it for my voluntary research project. I met a member of a Myanmarese NGO specialized in microfinance and worked on an internship there in the spring of this year.


佐々 法学部の授業でミャンマーに行くことになり、自由課題の中で以前から知っていたマイクロファイナンスについて調べ始めたのがきっかけです。そこでミャンマーでマイクロファイナンス事業を行っているNGOの方と交流し、今年春、同国でインターンを経験しました。

Sasa visits local mothers and gives a brief lecture about microfinance
Sasa visits local mothers and gives a brief lecture about microfinance

-What did you do in Myanmar as an intern?



Sasa: I had to start with just simple clerical work because I couldn't speak English fluently and there were only two people, including the president of the NGO, who could speak English. I had difficulties communicating with them. But they gradually evaluated my eagerness to get engaged in their business. In a week or two, the president gave me an assignment to manage the funds of a regional chapter. We don’t adopt a style to wait for customers who need loans to come forward. We approach our potential customers. One day, my president and I traveled by bike to visit as many as 20 poor families. I learned a lot by experiencing through actual work what I couldn’t in Japan, that is, the difficulties involved in this business of microfinance.

佐々 初めは事務的な単純作業しかできませんでした。流暢な英語が話せないことと、現地の人で英語が通じる人が社長を含め2人しかいないこともあって、意思疎通をとるのが難しかったからです。積極的に会社の事業に関わろうとする姿勢が徐々に評価され、1、2週間ほどが経つと社長から課題が与えられ、実際にある地域の資金管理を任されることになりました。マイクロファイナンスは融資を必要とする顧客を待つスタイルをとりません。自分たちから顧客となる人々にアプローチします。あるときには、バイクに社長と2人乗りで貧困家庭を1日20件も訪問することがありました。日本では決して体験できないこの事業の難しさを、実務を通して経験できたことはとてもいい勉強になりました。


-What changes did you think has microfinance brought to the life of local people?



Sasa: I thought microfinance is certainly having a growing impact on their life because I could confirm many causes where people overcame their poverty with the help of microfinance. For example, some of them started up a business to produce the traditional ethnic clothes called “longyi” and others set up a pig farm. This made me feel that microfinance has created a cycle of people earning money by launching new business.

 佐々 実際にマイクロファイナンスによって貧困から抜け出す事例を確認できたことから、その影響力は確実に浸透していると思いました。例えばロンジーと呼ばれる民族衣装を作る事業、養豚場の開業など、起業してお金を稼ぐというサイクルが構築されているように感じました。


-What is your future target?



Sasa: In the future, I want to found a social business company that will help resolve poverty problems. But I will not do it immediately. I plan to be employed by a private company upon my graduation. That is because I need to learn more about practical business, build up my knowhow, save money and consolidate my own foothold.

佐々 将来的には貧困問題の解決につながるソーシャル・ビジネスの会社を創りたいと考えています。しかし、すぐに起業するのではなく、卒業後にいったんは就職しようと思っています。その理由は、実務の勉強をしてノウハウを積み上げられますし、お金を貯めて、まずは足元を固めていきたいと考えているからです。


-Thank you for your time.

(Interviewed by: Hiroki Sajo)