Mennonite World Conference’s assembly in Indonesia in July provided many opportunities for some of MEDA’s managers to build relationships with Mennonites from the Global South.
Dorothy Nyambi, MEDA’s president and CEO, took part in panels both during and after the assembly, which had a theme of following Jesus together across barriers.
During the gathering, she facilitated an online workshop entitled business and faith in a post-COVID world. The session focused on experiences of several businesses during the pandemic and now. Panelists were Veronica Herrera, CEO of MiCrédito, Nicaragua; Hadija Jabri, managing director GBRI, Tanzania; and Sunoko Lin, chief financial officer at TRACE Worldwide Corporation.
They discussed the disruptions in their respective business sectors and how they were able to find opportunities among the challenges they faced.
Each panelist told stories of resilience and pivoting to new product offerings or new markets. MiCrédito, a MEDA partner, is a financial institution that reaches underserved populations in both urban and rural Nicaragua. Herrera described how MiCrédito staff developed MEDIPHONE, a product to respond to clients’ fears of traveling from their rural area by public transportation to receive medical education about the pandemic.
Every week, educational sessions presented by a medical doctor were sent through WhatsApp to clients without health insurance. With 643 clients affected by COVID, MiCrédito also redesigned their loan processes, so that clients could contact a call center to arrange for delivery of a loan in cash by a driver, similar to a pizza delivery.
Jabri talked about how GBRI’s business exporting horticultural produce completely stopped for eight months, as most of their customers in Europe were in lockdown. GBRI has now used their cold storage infrastructure, set up with MEDA’s support, to diversify from only exporting vegetables to include selling bananas in Tanzania.
The firm now sources fresh bananas from 3,000 small-scale farmers in two regions in northern Tanzania and have opened another branch in Dar es Salaam, Tanzania’s largest city and financial hub.
It distributes ripened bananas to 1,200 vendors, most of whom are women. GBRI also added avocados to their portfolio and have 2,000 farmers supplying avocados. Lin explained how his company has had to shift three times. TRACE Worldwide represents U.S. manufacturers of products for airplanes such as seating, overhead bins, wheels, and brakes, and introduces them to foreign markets.
In the history of the company, their business has shifted from Europe to Japan and more recently from Russia, (when they received a cease and desist order March 1 from the U.S. government due to the Ukraine invasion), to Azerbaijan, Kazakhstan, and Uzbekistan. Lin noted that while COVID is unprecedented, it created opportunities for those who cared to look and move fast.
After the assembly, Lin, who is Mennonite World Conference’s treasurer, hosted a business leaders’ summit. That event aimed to start a movement among Indonesian business leaders to create social impact.
Hero Wijayadi, a business leader from the host church, JKI Injil Kerajaan, spoke on doing business via digital transformation. One of his companies provides a digital platform for small florists, allowing them to increase their sales.
Dorothy Nyambi spoke about how social impact boosts business, which can happen when business people integrate their faith and values into their work. Business leader and evangelist Frits Triman gave a testimony on integrating Christian faith into his business practice. He shared his vision for his life, to be a present to God. His mission is to live a holy life, serving God and people.