SPECIAL REPORT: Rural Action Group Discusses Product Ecosystems, Marital Strife at European Microfinance Week

The Rural Outreach & Innovation Action Group of the European Microfinance Platform (e-MFP) met today as part of a full day of Action Group meetings at European Microfinance Week, which is being hosted in Luxembourg by e-MFP, a 130-member NGO. Michael Tarazi, a senior financial sector specialist at CGAP (Consultative Group to Assist the Poor) argued against pushing lending products on new rural clients, instead proposing a multi-stage approach. For example, farmers can be offered mobile phones for free, with the promise of receiving information such as crop management suggestions via SMS (text message). Then crop buyers can purchase access to the farmers’ phones, such as to request the preparation of a wholesale load of crops from a group of the farmers at a given price. This can increase the income of the farmers, putting them in a better position to repay future loans for improvements to their processes. As Mr Tarazi put it, “Finance comes at the end; first you develop the digital ecosystem with other valued services such as information.”

MICROCAPITAL BRIEF: Dianrong.com to Expand Peer-to-Peer Lending to Small Businesses in China Via Joint Venture With Bank of Suzhou

The Bank of Suzhou Limited, a Chinese commercial bank, has announced that it will collaborate with Dianrong.com, a Chinese peer-to-peer lending platform, to build a website to intermediate loans from members of the public to micro- and small enterprises.

MICROCAPITAL BRIEF: The MasterCard Foundation Commits $25m to Expand UN Capital Development Fund’s Mobile Money for the Poor (MM4P) Program

The MasterCard Foundation, a Canadian nonprofit that aims to promote youth learning and financial inclusion in Africa and other emerging markets, has partnered with the United Nations Capital Development Fund (UNCDF), a UN initiative to increase access to microfinance and other forms of investment capital for small businesses and individuals in developing countries, to expand the UNCDF Mobile Money for the Poor (MM4P) program.

MICROCAPITAL BRIEF: Technology Recognized as Tool to Improve Property Rights, Payment Platforms, Reduce Transaction Costs at International Monetary Fund (IMF) Seminar: “Future of Finance – Technology and Financial Inclusion”

The International Monetary Fund (IMF), a US-based arm of the United Nations, and the US-based World Bank Group, recently held a seminar on technology and financial inclusion as part of its seminar series entitled “The Future of Finance,” panelists discussed the role of technology as a tool to amend market failures in the provision of financial services for low-income people such as via the documentation of property rights and reductions in transaction costs.

MICROFINANCE PUBLICATION ROUND-UP: The Broadband Effect: Enhancing Market-based Solutions for the Base of the Pyramid, Strengthening Regulated SACCO Societies in Kenya, Microfinance Barometer

“The Broadband Effect: Enhancing Market-based Solutions for the Base of the Pyramid;” by Olivier Kayser, Lucie Klarsfeld and Simon Brossard; published by the Inter-American Development Bank; September 2014; available at http://www.iadb.org/en/publications/publication-detail,7101.html?id=75634

This report examines how private companies are using broadband, a high-capacity internet connection, to improve the efficiency and reach of their operations that are geared towards the “base of the pyramid (BOP) markets” [1].

MICROCAPITAL BRIEF: SatADSL to Provide Microfinance Institutions, Money Transfer Firms with Satellite Technology to Expand Branch Networks in East Africa

SatADSL (Asymmetric Digital Subscriber Line), a Belgian telecommunications company that provides internet services in Sub-Saharan Africa, recently announced that it plans to provide microfinance institutions and money transfer firms with automated teller machines (ATMs) and money transfer capabilities using “ very small aperture terminal” (VSAT) equipment.

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).

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].

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.

MICROCAPITAL BRIEF: US Agency for International Development (AID), CGAP (Consultative Group to Assist the Poor), The Mastercard Foundation 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, and The Mastercard Foundation, a Canadian nonprofit that aims to promote youth learning and financial inclusion in emerging markets, 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.

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.

MICROCAPITAL BRIEF: United Nations Global Compact, Gate Global Impact Launch Gateway 2.0 to Fund Socially Responsible Projects

The United Nations (UN) Global Compact, an initiative to encourage businesses to adopt sustainable and socially responsible policies, and Gate Global Impact (GGI), a US-based regulatory-compliant electronic marketplace that focuses on impact investing, have launched Gateway 2.0, a website enabling small and medium-sized enterprises (SMEs) listed on the UN Global Compact Social Enterprise Hub to access financing for sustainable and “socially responsible” projects [1].

MICROCAPITAL BRIEF: SolarNow Raises $2.5m from Novastar Ventures, Acumen Fund

SolarNow, an Ugandan-based company selling solar electric home systems, recently raised EUR 2 million (USD 2.53 million) by selling equity shares to Novastar Ventures, a Mauritius-based fund investing in new businesses with ‘innovative’ business models in Africa, and Acumen Fund, a New-York based nonprofit venture fund.

MICROCAPITAL BRIEF: Argentina’s Banco Macro Launches “Alumbra” Business, Mortgage Loans for Micro-, Small Enterprises via Fundacion Macro

Banco Macro, a private bank in Argentina, recently announced that it has launched “Alumbra,”[1] a lending vehicle for micro- and small enterprises.

MICROCAPITAL BRIEF: Risk Management Initiative in Microfinance (RIM) Announces Launch of Website Promoting Uniform Standards

Risk Management Initiative in Microfinance (RIM), a platform that promotes adoption of risk management standards in microfinance, has announced the launch of its official website, which aims to provide a “hub for the dissemination of risk management standards, information sharing and industry cooperation” [1].

MICROFINANCE PUBLICATION ROUND-UP: Digital Financial Services Risk Assessment for Microfinance Institutions, Microinsurance Awareness in Ghana, G2P for Financial Inclusion: A Job Half Done

“Digital Financial Services Risk Assessment For Microfinance Institutions – A Pocket Guide;” by Tom Shaw, Marcella Willis, Daryl Skoog, Sonia Arenaza, Sudha Garg, Susan Salerno, Eve Hamilton and Shailee Adnolfi; published by The Digital Financial Services Working Group; September 2014; 15 pages; available at https://lextonblog.files.wordpress.com/2014/09/dfs_risk_guide_sept_2014_final.pdf

The authors of this “pocket guide”[1] argue for the importance of “Digital Financial Services (DFS)”[1] to reach low-income individuals who do not have access to traditional banking solutions.

MICROCAPITAL BRIEF: Airtel, Grameen Foundation, Plan International to Launch Mobile Money Platform for Savings Groups in Uganda Under Which All Group Members Must Approve Each Transaction Via SMS

The Ugandan subsidiary of Bharti Airtel, an Indian telecommunications services provider with operations in 150 countries; Grameen Foundation, a US-based nonprofit organization; and the Ugandan arm of Plan International, a UK-based child rights and anti-poverty nonprofit that operates in 48 countries, have entered into a partnership to launch a mobile money platform that is intended to serve savings groups in Uganda.