Age ain’t just a number

In the last few days a colleague of mine went to a local bank with the aim of accessing a personal loan. He was given the necessary forms and a template of a Letter of Undertaking for his employers to sign. He did all the necessary filling in and signing and took the forms and letter back to the bank. The officer attending to him received the forms and when through them to ensure completion. He then made a statement to the effect that this colleague should not be too confident his application will go through because of his age. No prizes for guessing what he meant. He looked at this young man with a small build and youthful face then thought how he could apply for ‘so much money’? How on earth could such a youthful guy have so much money to spend nilly-willy without guidance from his parents or some other authority? For this bank officer, this guy was too young to get such a big loan.

But this officer made a few grave mistakes when he made that statement. Firstly the bank demanded he fill in an application form that he did. The form indicated he put the repayment amount that should be no more than 30% of the amount that is deposited into his account at the end of each month. The amount was within the 30% limit! He also brought a signed letter of undertaking from his employee guaranteeing that they will not only remit his salary to the bank for the duration of the loan repayment period but also pay the outstanding balance should their employee die, resign or somehow default. That is all the bank asked for. Unless he previously defaulted on a loan or was involved in some kind of fraud, I personally see no reason for denying him access to a loan.

Secondly either this officer didn’t do his mental arithmetic well or for some strange reason thinks that a 26 year old male is still a boy who can’t handle his own finances. It is a known fact, and there are plenty examples in society today, that there are some 40 year old men who have still not grown up and should walk around with pacifiers in their mouths. There are also examples of 21 year olds who have excelled at such a young age and manage successful businesses with healthy turnovers. So age should not be a single reason for rejection of a loan of a few thousands of Kwacha’s.

Lastly it should appreciated that not all information collected on application forms will be used to determine eligibility for a loan unless of course that was and is the sole aim of this particular bank. If it is the case then I can rightly assume that women will have problems getting loans as will someone who uses TNM as opposed to Celtel as could be the case if one were simply a clerk and not a manager. In most marketing oriented companies data is collected for purposes of building customer databases that can later be used for marketing purposes or for research. It is also common knowledge that the central bank requires detailed information on customers to enable it deal effectively with money laundering and other criminal activities.

This attitude towards customers in general and the ‘youthful’ in particular just goes to justify an earlier post I made about the Fear of Failure amongst Malawians. It would seem that age is just not a number for some people. It is a barrier to achieving goals. It is a number that determines whether one succeeds in life of not. In some people’s minds it sits at par with other elements such as sex, religion and tribe and must be used at all costs to hinder progress of mankind. It’s time to change our attitude to change our country’s destiny.

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Austin Madinga's Life Unbound