I read that, on average, adults in the UK will make over 90 visits per year to a cash point machine, withdrawing an annual total of £2250 and spending around 6 hours (including waiting time) for the privilege of doing so.
No doubt if you drilled beneath the surface of this you would find plenty of people who never require a hole-in-the-wall experience, save for the occasional domestic emergency (in my case this used to be at 2am when the Colonel’s credit card machine had stopped working at my local KFC), and then there will exist a whole swathe of the public who frequent them on a daily basis, and are prepared to endure the ritualistic queuing part of the whole process.
As with other equivalent queuing experiences, it was usually me – impatient and late for my train – who ended up stood behind someone from this second group of people, who was intent not, it would appear, on using their debit card and the cash point for their primary purposes (as indicated by their names) instead using every other option available, vacantly tapping away at the keypad, and finally withdrawing their card and no money, only to summon another one from their pocket, and start the process all over again.
Out here the ATMs are less popular, and queuing time is mercifully down. But whilst I would be the first to concede that these are not the most eye catching of statistics in terms of people’s financial habits back in the UK, they reminded me of how back home – provided you have the cash in your bank account! – it is very easy to take for granted being able to access your money whenever you please.
Starting a business in the UK is a different matter of course, and accessing the amount of credit required to do such a thing comes with due process, and over recent years, a number of barriers. It is not easy, but it remains a lifeline for many people. The small to medium sized enterprises operating in the country alone employ 3 out of every 5 adults working in the private sector.
Starting a business remains one of the most sacred acts in life. It brings with it many issues, but can also create many opportunities. In Vietnam, as across other parts of the world where GDP levels are lower than in the UK, business start-ups are just as sacred, and come with plenty of pros and cons.
I often feel, however, that we are too quick to see the differences and not the similarities, when we compare the UK with other parts of the world. This might be largely because there are so many obvious, visible contrasts to hone in on. The truth is that there are many things we have in common with each other which can often be left out of the conversation.
What cross cuts every country, no matter what its economic situation, is the need for people to earn money, and CARE International have engaged with communities from all across the world for the past 65 years on this very subject.
In CARE’s experience, what sticks is enabling people to be enterprising on their own terms, in their own way, and with the type of ownership for the success or failure of their efforts that anyone starting up a new business in the UK today would expect to have themselves.
And what is the biggest barrier for start-ups in Vietnam, or across Africa, or throughout Asia? Access to loans to get things up and running. Although in these particular contexts, a £50 loan is all that might be required for someone to make a viable business.
Which is why CARE created lendwithcare (www.lendwithcare.org) last year. A micro lending scheme to which people living in the UK can contribute any amount, which is then loaned to small business start-ups in low income countries in Africa and Asia, before being repaid to the donor in the UK.
Bakeries, shops, tailors, florists, fishmongers, every kind of business opportunity is on the table, and made viable through the lendwithcare scheme. The website above tells you more, and carries the stories of recipients of such loans, and how they have been able to realise their ambitions to earn a living, as a result of receiving them.
I think this initiative is eye catching. It is about loaning money to people, but it is also about seeing the person first…
Something to think about next time you are waiting in line for your emergency chicken McNuggets.