Over two years ago, Matthieu Tordeur circumnavigated the world driving 32,000 miles in a Renault 4 (4L). He fundraised €25,000 from private and public institutions to redistribute microcredit loans to 150 projects in 9 countries around the world: India, Southeast Asia, Central and South America and West Africa. Adventure Uncovered caught up with Matthieu two years on to talk about the lasting social impact of his adventure.

Matthieu, what’s so important about microcredit that made you even consider this adventure?
I first heard of microfinance in the book ‘Banker to the Poor from Muhammad Yunus and became increasingly interested in this economic concept. So after my first year at university, I completed a summer internship in a microfinance institution in Togo. There, I witnessed that when operated wisely, microfinance is an incredible tool to alleviate poverty. By providing people excluded from the formal financial sector with a small amount of cash and by showing them how to invest it, micro-entrepreneurs are incredibly successful in developing their own businesses. Supporting microfinance around the world was a way for us not only to travel but also to genuinely meet men and women en route.

Driving around the world for microfinance map route
Map route – driving around the world for microfinance

How did your trip assist in unlocking micro-entrepreneurship across the world?
Nicolas and I are not experts in economics, so in order to make our project happen we worked in close partnership with world-class microfinance organisations based in France, Babyloan and Entrepreneurs du Monde. This partnership was key, as it put us in direct contact with reliable on field microfinance institutions through which we made our micro-loans to 150 micro-entrepreneurs before setting off on the adventure. The reason we lent money beforehand is simple: it allowed the people we had supported to create or develop an income generating activity before we would come and visit them in their city.

“Supporting microfinance around the world was a way for us not only to travel but also to genuinely meet men and women en route.”

Tell us about the projects you were able to help? Why are they important and what do they do?
We wanted to support a variety of activities and interact with people from different backgrounds. Therefore we met micro-entrepreneurs with sewing workshops, shoe repair shops, tortilla bakeries, small restaurants, side road shops, hairdresser salons, bookshops or doing livestock farming and agriculture and home hosting. All of the micro-businesses we have visited were actors of the local economy employing local resources. Some of these micro-entrepreneurs might have better knowledge of how to do business than others, some would be very young mums and other beneficiaries would be great grandmas. But they would all have in common a burning desire to increase their standard of living for themselves and their children. Microcredit brings them the capital to start building a business and overcomes the shortcomings of the modern financial sector reluctant to lend such small sums of money.

How has the money provided helped micro-entrepreneurs to scale their business?
For the first loan, it is crucial for the micro-entrepreneurs to understand the basics of business and how to make the best use out of their microcredit. To do so, employees of the microfinance institutions provide compulsory training to their microcredit recipients that take the form of role-plays and games so that they are understood by anyone. Depending on how well the business of the micro-entrepreneur is performing, the microfinance institution will provide further training and advice. The one-to-one relationship and the dedication of the microfinance institutions to unleash the potential of their beneficiaries are truly remarkable and it is this support that is at the base of the economic success of the micro-entrepreneurs. There are a vast amount of microfinance institutions (MFI) in the world. They don’t all work well that’s for sure, but when the micro-entrepreneurs are accompanied in the credit process, the reimbursement rate comes close to 99%!

“The one-to-one relationship and the dedication of the microfinance institutions to unleash the potential of their beneficiaries are truly remarkable.”

What socially inspired adventures are you planning next? And what are you working on right now
Since I came back from my round the world trip, I have been working with my teammate on a photo book (prefaced by Professor Yunus) and a 52-minute documentary. I am incredibly excited to share our adventure with even more people! It won’t be long before I set off on a new adventure, though, I am always bursting with new ideas and projects. The next one is a rather daunting one. I am taking on the Marathon des Sables in April 2017, an event known as the toughest footrace on earth.

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Matthieu Tordeur is a French Adventurer, Writer, and Photographer. As well as circumnavigating the world supporting microfinance in a Renault 4, Matthieu has sailed across the Atlantic and cycled across Europe. His next challenge is to complete the Marathon de Sables in April 2017.

You can find out more about Matthieu here: www.matthieutordeur.com

Below is a trailer of the forthcoming documentary about the microfinance adventure.

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