It is such a pleasure in my last two blogs to be able to introduce you to the CED team. Last month, I introduced you to Andrew Chacha, the CED Program Leader. This month is my last month on the ground. I am passing the baton to Elias Fanta, the new CED Program Manager. We have been working together over the past couple of weeks to transition the program and discuss where CED is headed this next year. I am leaving the program confidently in his hands and hope you will enjoy his insights over the next year into our operations on the ground. I will miss my team and am so grateful to see and have been a part of the impact Nuru is making in Kuria, Kenya. But, without further ado…an introduction by Elias Fanta.

Elias Fanta was born in the city of Assala, Ethiopia. He attended elementary and high school educations in his birthplace Assala. After completing high school, Elias went to the Addis Ababa University for a tertiary education and earned a BA degree in economics.

Elias started his professional career back in 1993 when the Southern Nation, Nationalities and Peoples Government (SNNPG) initiated the first microfinance project in Ethiopia. Elias was given the responsibility of establishing and coordinating the project, which was the first of its kind in Ethiopia. Under his leadership, the project served as a showcase for similar interventions across the country.

Elias had the opportunity to travel to Bangladesh to learn about the microfinance credit and saving operations of the Grameen Bank. Elias was able to see firsthand the power of fighting poverty through such financial services. He learned about the power of group savings and loan programs in securing financial services to poor communities which were excluded from such services by conventional financial institutions.

Elias took the lead in establishing the microfinance project and served as its first coordinator for three years. Through this project, Elias helped poor families, most of them woman-led households, in order to establish saving and credit groups to access financial services in cities across the southern region. Though the road was bumpy along the way, the financial intervention of the project helped many poor entrepreneurs to start new businesses or expand existing ones. Elias assisted clients to gain financial trainings in important topics such as bookkeeping, marketing, business plan preparation, and cash flow management skills. He witnessed many poor clients of the project become able to weather financial difficulties and increase their income significantly. While most of the clients were able to make sufficient income to cover their loans and escape out of poverty, some exceeded expectations. A number of clients were not only able to come out of extreme poverty but also expand and grow their business to a higher level. Elias is proud in helping these micro-businesses in generating sizable profits to their owners and able to create job opportunities for many others.

Such practical lifetime experience helped Elias to land a job in the microfinance sector in the USA. From 2007 to 2009 Elias was employed by the Enterprise Development Group of Arlington, Virginia. Elias worked as a loan manager and technical advisor at the organization and was able to help many poor families, particularly new immigrants to the US, to get micro loans, access saving services, and to expand existing or new businesses. Elias was pleased to see many clients making good income and save money to pay for college or buy house and other properties and live the promise of the American dream.

Elias is excited to join the Nuru team as the Community Economic Development Program Manager and we look forward to his contributions and added experience.