MICROFINANCE PAPER WRAP-UP: “The Next Stage of Financial Inclusion;” by Dean Karlan; Published by Stanford Social Innovation Review

“The Next Stage of Financial Inclusion;” by D. Karlan; published by the Stanford Social Innovation Review; fall 2014; 9 pages; available at: http://www.ssireview.org/pdf/Fall_2014_The_Next_Stage_of_Financial_Inclusion_1.pdf

This paper investigates the evolving role of nonprofit organizations in providing microcredit to people with low incomes. Dr Karlan argues that the role of nonprofit organizations has changed from providing microcredit to people with low incomes in general as for-profit companies have entered the market and begun to provide these services effectively. Instead, nonprofit institutions are addressing market failures to reach those who continue to be excluded from the market. The article is structured around three issues: (1) reaching individuals not covered by the for-profit sector, including those “too rural,” “too poor” or “too young;” (2) building trust among customers and microcredit providers; and (3) promoting innovation.

The author argues that pursuing poor people living in very rural areas is expensive and in fact unsustainable on a for-profit basis. He suggests that nonprofit organizations should promote savings-led microfinance, such as savings groups in which 10 to 30 people work together to save and loan to each other. Randomized trials conducted in Ghana, Malawi, Mali and Uganda by Innovation for Poverty Action (IPA), with the help of Plan International, Oxfam and Freedom from Hunger (FFH) indicate that savings groups initiatives have a modest, but positive impact on total savings, livestock levels and higher levels of food security.

Dr Karlan further argues that nonprofit institutions are essential to strengthen trust between the financial industry and its future customers, and that they are vital in ensuring a smooth transition for the emergence of for-profit companies. A recent study conducted by IPA in Uganda showed that certain products previously unknown to the public had a purchase rate of 49 percent if sold by nonprofit vendors compared with 31 percent if sold by for-profit vendors. Endorsement or certifications by microfinance institutions (MFIs) can also lead to higher purchase rates. BASIX, an India-based MFI, demonstrated in one instance that the purchase rate for rainfall insurance was 36 percent higher when an MFI-endorsed insurance educator promoted it.

As financial returns of process innovation in the microfinance sector are very low, Dr Karlan argues that nonprofit institutions should be the key agents promoting innovation. The first policy proposed is to replace debt financing by equity financing, as is common in Islamic finance models, such as ijarah, murabaha or musharaka. The second proposed measure is to provide more generous repayment schedules using concepts from corporate project financing. For instance, a company that borrowed money to build a factory would only have to repay its loan once the factory starts generating revenues. A study conducted in India demonstrated that test groups with a grace period of two months had a 4.5 percent likelihood of starting a business compared to 2 percent for control groups that had a two-week grace period. It further showed that after three years, business profits and household incomes were 41 percent and 19.5 percent higher for the group with the longer grace period. However, the study also demonstrated that default rates were up to 6.2 percent for the test group compared with 1.7 percent for the control group.

By Simon Pfanner, Research Associate

[1] Standard Social Innovation Review, “The Next Stage of Financial Inclusion“

MicroCapital, July 12, 2012, Innovations for Poverty Action (IPA), Citi Foundation Issue Call for Financial Capability Research Funding Proposals

MicroCapital, April 29, 2011, Stanford Social Innovation Review (SSIR) Blog, Ignacio Mas, John Staley Offer Regulators, Financial Service Providers Ideas to Increase Financial Inclusion

MicroCapital, November 9, 2010, Microfinance Bank Compartamos Banco, Researchers Dean Karlan of Yale University and Jonathan Zinman of Dartmouth University to Study How Customers Use Microfinance Products

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CGAP, MasterCard Foundation Award $500k for Behavioral Research to Freedom from Hunger, IFMR, Innovations for Poverty, The MicroInsurance Centre

CGAP (Consultative Group to Assist the Poor), a US-based nonprofit that aims to facilitate the expansion of financial access, and the MasterCard Foundation, a Canadian nonprofit that aims to promote youth learning and financial inclusion in emerging markets, recently awarded a total of USD 500,000 to the following four organizations: Freedom From Hunger, a US-based NGO operating in developing countries to alleviate poverty and hunger; IFMR Finance Foundation, an arm of India’s Institute for Financial Management and Research (IFMR) Trust Group; Innovations for Poverty Action, a US-based nonprofit organization that uses randomized evaluations to research development initiatives; and The MicroInsurance Centre, a US-based, for-profit research, product development and training firm. Continue reading

MICROCAPITAL BRIEF: Togo-based EcoBank to Accept MasterCard Debit, Credit, Prepaid Cards via 2,500 ATMs, 10,000 Points of Sale in 28 African Countries

MasterCard, a US-based payment solutions company, recently partnered with EcoBank Transnational Incorporated (EcoBank), a Togo-based bank, to enable Ecobank’s customers to use MasterCard debit, credit and prepaid cards at all of Ecobank’s point-of-sale (PoS) terminals and automated teller machines (ATMs). Continue reading

MICROCAPITAL BRIEF: International Finance Corporation (IFC) Loans $5m to KazMicroFinance (KMF) of Kazakhstan for On-Lending to Small Enterprises

The International Finance Corporation (IFC), the private-investment arm of the World Bank Group, has announced that it will loan the equivalent of USD 5 million in Kazakh tenge (KZT) to KazMicroFinance Limited Liability Company (KMF), a microfinance institution (MFI) in Kazakhstan. Continue reading

MICROCAPITAL BRIEF: European Bank for Reconstruction and Development (EBRD), Turkish Government Launch “Finance and Advice to Women in Business” 

The European Bank for Reconstruction and Development (EBRD), a UK-based multilateral financial institution, along with the European Union Delegation to Turkey, the Turkish Employment Agency and the Ministry of Labour and Social Security of the Republic of Turkey recently launched the “Finance and Advice to Women in Business” program, an initiative that aims to strengthen and increase the role of women in the Turkish economy. Continue reading

MICROCAPITAL BRIEF: Kenyan Regulators Approve Equity Bank Mobile Money Services Despite Security Objections from Safaricom

The Communications Authority (CA) of Kenya, the government body that regulates the communication industry in the country, and the Central Bank of Kenya (CBK), the country’s central banking authority, have given their approval to Equity Bank, a private Kenyan microfinance bank, to roll out a one-year pilot of its mobile money services using “Thin Sim technology” [1]. Continue reading

MICROCAPITAL BRIEF: China’s Alibaba Launches Microfinance Arm, Ant Financial, to Consolidate Financial Services Units Including Alipay Mobile Payments, Yu’e Bao Money Market Fund

Alibaba Group Holding Limited, a Chinese internet and e-commerce company, recently launched Ant Financial Services Group, a microfinance arm to consolidate all six of Alibaba’s affiliated entities Alipay, an online payment tool; Alipay wallet, a mobile payment application; Yu’e Bao, a USD 93 billion money market fund; Zhao Cai Bao, a platform that allows individuals and small businesses directly borrow from investors; Ant Micro, a microfinance provider and MY Bank, an affiliated private bank. Continue reading

MICROCAPITAL BRIEF: International Monetary Fund (IMF) Releases 2014 Financial Access Survey (FAS)

The International Monetary Fund (IMF), a US-based organisation that is part of the United Nations, has released the results of its 2014 Financial Access Survey (FAS), a publication that provides data and analysis on financial inclusion around the world. Continue reading

MICROCAPITAL BRIEF: US Agency for International Development (AID), CGAP (Consultative Group to Assist the Poor) Award $1m to ideas42 for Financial Management Tool for Microentrepreneurs

The US Agency for International Development (AID), a government agency that provides international economic and humanitarian assistance, and CGAP (Consultative Group to Assist the Poor), a US-based, nonprofit that aims to facilitate the expansion of financial access, recently awarded approximately USD 1 million to ideas42, a US-based nonprofit consulting and behavioral design firm, for the implementation of a SMS text-messaging “push” notification system and voice-based platform that is intended to help microentrepreneurs better manage their finances. Continue reading

MICROCAPITAL BRIEF: Call for Applicants for $227k Ashden International Sustainable Energy Awards Open until November 4, 2014

Ashden, a UK-based nonprofit established in 2001 that promotes the use of sustainable energy, has issued a call for applicants for the 2015 Ashden International Awards, which will recognize development programs with a focus on reducing carbon emissions and increasing access to sustainable energy. Continue reading

MICROCAPITAL BRIEF: Project Concern International (PCI) to Target 250,000 Additional Women Through Women Empowered (WE) Initiative

Project Concern International (PCI), a US-based non-governmental organization (NGO), recently announced that it plans to scale up the operations of its Women Empowered (WE) initiative by providing approximately 250,000 women, in addition to the 230,000 women it currently serves, with tools and training for their businesses. Continue reading

MICROCAPITAL BRIEF: Grameen Foundation, MicroEnsure, Penda, Clifford Chance Launch Uzima Health Microinsurance in Kenya

The Grameen Foundation, a US-based nonprofit organization; MicroEnsure, a UK-based, for-profit microinsurance company founded by US-based NGO Opportunity International; Penda Health, a Kenya-based, for-profit chain of medical centers; and Clifford Chance, a UK-based international law firm, recently announced that they have launched an initiative called the “Uzima Project” in Kenya with the aim of providing “low-cost“ health insurance. Continue reading

MICROCAPITAL BRIEF: European Bank for Reconstruction and Development (EBRD) Commences Advisory Services for Small, Medium-Sized Enterprises (SMEs) in Morocco

The European Bank for Reconstruction and Development (EBRD), a UK-based financial institution that operates in Eastern Europe, Central Asia and North Africa, recently began offering advisory services to support small and medium-sized enterprises (SMEs) in Morocco. Continue reading

MICROCAPITAL BRIEF: Développement international Desjardins (DID), International Co-operative Alliance (ICA), Proxfin Members Endorse Draft Declaration on Food Security, Job Creation, Access to Healthcare

On the occasion of the recently convened International Summit of Cooperatives, Développement international Desjardins (DID), a Canadian nonprofit corporation that specializes in providing technical support and investment for the community finance sector in emerging economies; the International Co-operative Alliance (ICA), a Belgium-based nonprofit with 271 member cooperatives in 94 countries; and microfinance institutions (MFIs) that are members of the Proxfin Network, an international network of 30 community finance institutions coordinated by DID, endorsed a Draft Declaration to tackle the “challenges of food security,” “employment crisis,” and “access to health care and services”[1]. Continue reading

SPECIAL REPORT: Over-indebtedness, Microfinance and Environment Award, Conflict Zones at e-MFP’s European Microfinance Week

MicroCapital: Please describe one of the key issues to be covered this year at European Microfinance Week.

Christoph Pausch: The question of over-indebtedness is still the major risk for the sector, as identified in the most recent Banana Skins survey. We had a very successful plenary last year exploring the issue from a research perspective. This year, we’re taking a very different approach by bringing CEOs of leading microfinance institutions (MFIs) from three countries – Bangladesh, Morocco, and Mexico – to discuss how they’ve been dealing with the issue. Each of these countries has had a different experience, with Bangladesh having successfully averted a potential crisis by slowing market growth (as described in an excellent paper by Stuart Rutherford and Greg Chen). Morocco was one of the original “microfinance crisis” countries during 2008 and 2009, and the MFIs there have had an interesting experience in resolving the problems from that period. Finally, Mexico is a major market with serious concerns regarding over-indebtedness, and MFIs there are working to avert a potential crisis. Continue reading