I think it is important to note that the typical day in my life as an Accion Ambassador is anything but typical. My day starts at about 6a.m., when I wake up. I usually get to work between 8 and 8:30 a.m. Once I get in, I create a list of things I would like to accomplish for the day. Some typical items on the list – going on client visits, visiting staff at branches, meeting with loan officers and branch managers, meetings with management, etc – are usually remnants from previous days.
On a day I am to visit branches, I plan to leave the office at 9 a.m., but the company driver is usually not ready till after 10 a.m. because he is probably on assignment and had to fight the incessant Lagos traffic to return. As I step out of the air-conditioned Accion Microfinance Bank (AMfB) building, I am instantly hit with the Lagos heat. I also take in the air and sound pollution fueled by the never ending Lagos hustle and characterized by honking cars in traffic, booming generators, and seemingly countless street vendors and pedestrians. I am to spend the next few hours taking all this in while I visit several AMfB branches.
Our driver, Fred (name disguised), then takes me from one branch to another so that I can interview AMfB customers and staff. Different branches exhibit different personalities – for example, the Ikeja branch is big, with a spacious waiting area while the Akowonjo branch could use some more space. The one thing that is constant in every branch I visit, however, is the constant activity in the bank. There are always customers in the waiting areas; staff swiftly pacing all over the bank; and people constantly coming in and going out. On the way back to AMfB headquarters, I patronize a street vendor selling gala – a popular Nigerian snack made with baked dough filled with sausage.
I return to AMfB headquarters at about 3:30 p.m. after having spent most of my day in traffic. It is now time to review my list of tasks for the day and check items off, but not before I am greeted with small chops – a small aluminum wrapped container filled with snacks, like spring rolls, samosas, fried plantain, puff-puff, and a couple of pieces of meat. At this point, I am wishing I had not purchase the gala.
One interesting thing about AMfB is how family oriented the work environment is. Every week since I started work, we have celebrated at least one person’s birthday with the distribution of small chops and complete meals. I also enjoy the open door policy of everyone, including the Managing Director. I have literally walked into her office without an appointment to ask questions about my project. But, perhaps what is most special about AMfB is the sense of purpose that has been distilled into the daily activities that the staff engages in. It truly is special.
My day usually ends promptly at 5 p.m. so that I do not keep our family driver waiting too long in the unpaved parking lot next to the AMfB building. In my many conversations with him, I recognize that he also has a life, and family, and dreams, and perhaps someday, he could be an AMfB client. Continue reading