July 31, 2018
WASHINGTON – The Overseas Private Investment Corporation (OPIC) has provided a $5 million loan to Tugende Limited, which supports small business lending and expanded transportation in Uganda by providing lease-to-own financing to motorcycle taxi drivers.
Tugende is a six-year-old business that tapped into pent up demand for lease-to-own financing among motorcycle taxi drivers and quickly expanded into a 150-employee business that has to date served more than 12,000 customers—5,000 of whom have already purchased their motorcycle taxis outright. The business, which has grown with no advertising, will use the OPIC loan to scale up its successful operations in Uganda, and offer a path to ownership and higher income for many more of the estimated one million full time motorcycle taxi drivers in East Africa.
Tugende, which means “let’s go,” was founded by American Michael Wilkerson who spent time as a Fulbright scholar and a journalist in Uganda and discovered that “bodas” or motorcycle taxis, were a critical part of the country’s transportation infrastructure. As he got to know more boda drivers he also learned that many worked long hours but could not attain financial security since they could not access the credit to purchase their own bodas.
“By supporting Uganda’s boda drivers, we are empowering local entrepreneurs while also helping to strengthen a key mode of transportation in Uganda,” said Ray W. Washburne, OPIC President and CEO. “This project will advance OPIC’s new Connect Africa initiative to invest in transportation, technology, and value chains across the continent.”
In addition to promoting boda ownership, Tugende offers drivers training on safety, financial planning, and customer service. Drivers can typically take ownership of a boda in 20 months, which can result in them doubling their take home income. Many of these borrowers have used this additional income to invest in healthcare and education for their families, or to start additional small businesses and create more jobs.
“Bodas are a key source of transportation in Uganda, but for boda drivers and many other small business operators access to capital has always been the biggest challenge,” said Tugende Founder and CEO Michael Wilkerson. “OPIC’s financing will help us provide financial security, asset ownership, and higher income for thousands of additional drivers and improved quality of life for tens of thousands of their family members.”
The Overseas Private Investment Corporation (OPIC) is a self-sustaining U.S. Government agency that helps American businesses invest in emerging markets. Established in 1971, OPIC provides businesses with the tools to manage the risks associated with foreign direct investment, fosters economic development in emerging market countries, and advances U.S. foreign policy and national security priorities. OPIC helps American businesses gain footholds in new markets, catalyzes new revenues and contributes to jobs and growth opportunities both at home and abroad. OPIC fulfills its mission by providing businesses with financing, political risk insurance, advocacy and by partnering with private equity fund managers.
OPIC services are available to new and expanding businesses planning to invest in more than 160 countries worldwide. Because OPIC charges market-based fees for its products, it operates on a self-sustaining basis at no net cost to taxpayers. All OPIC projects must adhere to best international practices and cannot cause job loss in the United States.