The founding CEO of FINKA Uganda, Scofield `died peacefully` on November 27th 2022 at age 73. An agricultural economist by training and former Peace Corps volunteer, Rupert understood that millions could be brought out of poverty by investing in their untapped wisdom. One of the top founding Directors and former centra government Minister, Hon. Daudi Migereko eulogized him as follows;
“Mrs. Lorraine Scofield, Julie, Michelle and John; The FINCA Leadership and staff in Uganda and Internationally; Members of the FINCA family in Uganda and globally, Ladies and Gentlemen; I wish to register my sincere condolences to you over the passing on of Rupert Scofield; a husband, a dad and head of the FINCA family. We thank God for the gift of Rupert’s life.
We also thank his immediate family for allowing him to share his time, ideas and resources with us. More importantly, for allowing him to work with some of us, as partners, in the fulfillment of his mission in this world. We have all lost a great person who has made major contribution to humanity by focusing on the economic empowerment of the poor through the FINCA Village Banking Model. In my view, the only other person who has attained comparable credentials in the field of Micro Credit is Yunus Muhammad, of the Grameen Bank of Bangladesh. However, Rupert and FINCA has a presence in many more countries, all over the world.
Rupert had certain special attributes; He could fit in any environment and freely related to all people irrespective of their status. He led a highly purposeful life, was highly results oriented, highly efficient in his work and always, mentored young people. His mission in life, coupled with the above attributes, enabled Rupert and FINCA to reach-out and impact millions of people in different parts of the world, including us here in Uganda.
Our contact and relationship with Rupert was made possible due to the fact that Rupert, myself and Sam Kigwana, happened to share the same ideals and had a strong desire to empower people economically, by enabling them to access credit, even when they had no collateral to offer. Sam Kigwana and I had shared this strong desire with Tom Warth of Books for Africa in Minnesota, when we interacted, as he was pursuing investment opportunities and the Books project in Uganda.
He offered to support us, approached Rotary International, McKnight Foundation and interested Rupert, whose FINCA Village Banking Methodology/Model fitted in very well, as a solution to what we were trying to grapple with. In 1992 Rupert was able to come to Uganda and the three of us founded FINCA (U). We set up offices in Jinja and opened three Village Banks at Kimanto, Wakitaka and Wanyange.
As our operations expanded, we were joined by James Semakadde (RIP), Ms. Joyce Kadowe, Fabian Kasi and a good number of highly committed young Ugandans. It is most gratifying that today, FINCA (U) is under good leadership and is well established in practically every District of Uganda. This very team, together with FINCA International, were able to move to other countries in Africa and started FINCA Village Banking in those countries.
This was under the stewardship and guidance of Rupert. Rupert has been one of Uganda’s best ambassadors, courtesy of what he has been doing to market our country, Uganda. In 1998, Uganda hosted the American President, H E Bill Clinton and Mrs. Hillary Clinton. Together with H E President Museveni and Mama Janet Museveni, they visited the FINCA Village Bank in Wanyange, Butembe, Jinja.
Rupert had successfully marketed the FINCA Village Banking Model in Uganda with the American President. This visit was a clear sign of appreciation of the good work FINCA was doing to economically empower the poor women, to educate their children and to help transform communities. In effect, FINCA (U) played a pioneering role in the field of Micro-Credit/Finance in Uganda.
This visit also helped deliver a clear message to the world that Uganda was a peaceful, secure and stable country that was ready to welcome international visitors and investors, from any part of the world. The international media coverage and publicity received by Uganda and FINCA, during and after this visit, was unprecedented and put us on a new trajectory. Following this visit, many new programs and products have since been introduced and the same have benefited Ugandans and the FINCA family globally.
We therefore, gather here to pay commendation to the life of a highly illustrious global personality whose good work has impacted many lives, transformed many communities and will remain present in our minds for many years to come. Rupert has served humanity with total commitment and dedication. It is our duty to emulate him, build on what he started and perpetuate his legacy. May his soul rest in eternal peace.
Founder Director FINCA (U), Former Minister Government of Uganda.
Who was Rupert Scofield?
The long-time CEO of FINCA International and a “founding father” of microfinance, passed away peacefully surrounded by his family on November 27, 2022. He was 73. An agricultural economist by training and former Peace Corps volunteer, Rupert understood that millions could be brought out of poverty by investing in their untapped wisdom. He held steadfast to the idea that all people deserve the ability to determine their own destiny.
“Rupert was convinced that the world was rich in potential but lacking in opportunity. For nearly 40 years, his leadership and vision empowered millions of people around the world to better their lives,” said David Weisman, chair of the Board of Directors at FINCA International. “He challenged the financial industry and investors to serve all people, not just those who already possess the advantages of education, capital, and connections.”
In 1984, Rupert co-founded FINCA International, a non-profit leader of microfinance and social enterprise. He became the organization’s president and CEO in 1994. He led the organization’s outreach to tens of millions of poor entrepreneurs who benefited from capital, business opportunities, and interventions aimed at giving them the ability to transcend the circumstances into which they were born.
“He was able to transform a simple nonprofit foundation into a global movement too big to fail yet small enough to embrace the poorest,” said FINCA co-founder and economic development expert John Hatch. “I will deeply miss his astute knowledge of human nature. The best possible tribute to Rupert’s memory is to redouble our efforts to abolish poverty and illiteracy on this amazing planet that God has assigned to our care.”
FINCA began providing access to financial services to small groups of women entrepreneurs, eventually growing those initial efforts into a network that spanned five continents. FINCA pioneered the engines of development known as Village Banking, where neighbors in a poor community form a borrowing group to guarantee loan repayment. Rupert helped lead efforts to create and implement the first global financial consumer protections in the microfinance sector under the Center for Financial Inclusion’s Smart Campaign.
Understanding that approaches to poverty must be multi-dimensional, Rupert led FINCA beyond financial inclusion into developing social enterprises that expand access to energy, water and sanitation, education, health, agriculture and fintech. Throughout, he was guided by a conviction that all people deserve the possibility of a self-determination rather than endure the struggle of a pre-determined fate.
“Rupert was a disruptor,” said Andrée Simon, President and CEO of FINCA Impact Finance. “He challenged us to make economically vulnerable people more resilient, not only by providing them with access to capital and financial services, but also by seeking complementary interventions to give them more control over their own destinies.”
In his last act as CEO of FINCA International, Rupert penned a letter to his “FINCA family” that reads less as a farewell and more as a call to arms. “The past 40 years have been more than we had a right to dream of, the next 40 hold the potential to be nothing less than revolutionary,” he wrote. “I am not just hopeful for that revolution. I am relying on you to lead it.”
The Boards of Directors of both FINCA International and FINCA Impact Finance know that the two organizations are well-positioned to build on Rupert’s legacy. “Over the years, Rupert helped develop an excellent team of experienced experts to guide FINCA’s operations and long-term strategy,” said Richard Williamson, a founding member of FINCA who serves on the boards of both FINCA International and FINCA Impact Finance. “He left FINCA in fully capable hands.”
- Joan Atuhwera is a Business Administration Graduate, a Human Rights activist and writer with over five years’ experience in pursuing justice for others via her keyboard. She can also be reached via email: [email protected] or WhatsApp +256774334595
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