By Abdul Hassan Fackie
In 2008, the Lift Above Poverty Organisation, (LAPO) Nigeria launched the company in Sierra Leone, known as LAPO SL. True to its mission the micro finance bank essentially provides micro-loans to women in disadvantaged areas.
Managing Director Gabriel Eshiague
About 95% of the borrowers are women, and 48% live in rural areas, with average disbursed loans of about one hundred and five billion Leones per year.
The company supports hundreds of thousands of clients across thirty branches all over the country.
It has branches in Freetown, Lumley, Goderich, Kissy, Wellington, Mayemi, Waterloo, Allen town, Lungi, Bo, Kenema, Makeni, Tikonkoh, Kono, Kabala, Lunsar, Kambia, Magburaka, Mile 91, Tongor Fields, Pujehun, Segbwema, Port Loko, Kailahun and Rotifunk. It is currently working out details to expand in places like Kabala, Kamakwe, Koindu and Shenge.
LAPO SL is one of the leading micro finance banks in the country with a coverage of 80% of the national territory. Most of their outstanding activities are concentrated in the services and trade activity sectors.
The flagship product of LAPO SL is the group loan to women in disadvantaged communities. This represents about 95% of their customers and 41% of the total outstanding customer base.
In addition to the normal banking services that they offer to their numerous customers, their main products include, Individual business loan, Small and medium enterprises loan, Consumer loan, Group special loan, Regular loan, Asset loan, Special loan, Emergency loan, and Education loan. Their interest rates are very low and can be paid without the customer feeling any discomfort.
LAPO SL currently has about three hundred and twenty five (325) workers majority of whom are Sierra Leoneans with only five Nigerians. In a conversion with a cross section of the workers, they revealed that they are well paid and they also receive various kinds of allowances and commissions.
The procedures of LAPO SL are characterised by a powerful and motivating system of supervision and withdrawal. The LAPO SL methodology allows a very good control of credit risk and customer relationship.
The organisation also has a team in charge of non-profit activities, whose mission is to lead mandatory awareness training on health, education, and gender issues for all client groups at least once a year. It also organises campaigns to raise awareness of the fight against malaria and the Corona virus disease.
Over the years, LAPO SL has bagged many prestigious awards and recognitions in the corporate sector.
Gabriel Eshiague is the Managing Director/Chief Executive Officer of LAPO Micro Finance Company Limited, a position he has held since 2014.
Many clients and workers say he is an inspiring leader and one of the sort after leaders in the microfinance sector in Africa with leadership abilities that demonstrate how far he has come both personally and professionally.
LAPO SL has received numerous recognitions and honours. Heading a company that is adding value to the national economy and improving the lives of thousands of poor men and especially poor women in Sierra Leone, Eshiague heads a team of over 325 men and women at LAPO locations across the country.
He rose through the rank and file in his profession, and in the LAPO Micro Finance Bank in particular.
In addition to leading LAPO SL to win multiple awards over the past years, and despite tough economic conditions and the current global Corona pandemic, the Managing Director Gabriel was recognized by Sierra Ovation as the Best Chief Executive Officer in 2019/2020 at a well-attended awards ceremony held on 10 December, 2020 at the Radisson Blu Hotel in Aberdeen, Freetown.
His company LAPO Micro Finance Company also won the Best Micro Finance Company of the year at the same awards night.
Gabriel Eshiague is a graduate from the University of Benin in 2006.
He was seconded to Sierra Leone in 2013. He possesses over twenty years working experience in various capacities. He joined LAPO in 2009 in Nigeria, and rose through the ranks from a Financial Director to becoming the Managing Director of LAPO SL. He is a Fellow of the Chartered Public Diplomacy and Management (CIPDM). He has attended several training programmes such as Credit Administration in Microfinance, CEO, Training Courses, Board and Leadership Development seminars, in Sierra Leone, Nigeria and Europe.
The soft-spoken, yet tough Managing Director, is well respected both among his inner circle and his stakeholders and clients.
In addition to being a senior business executive, he is also a father, mentor, a learner and a devoted Christian. His staff refer to him as a true leader, a caring and responsible personality, while the senior executive members of his team look to up him as an inspiration, a corporate diplomat and a coach many people rely on for results.