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. 

MICROCAPITAL BRIEF: Nigerian National Identity Management Commission, MasterCard Launch eID Cards for Biometric Identity Verification, Electronic Payments

The Nigerian National Identity Management Commission (NIMC), a government initiative responsible for instituting a national identity database of Nigerian citizens and legal residents, recently announced the launch of its National eID Card pilot program in partnership with MasterCard, a US-based payment solutions company [1].

SPECIAL REPORT: Marion Allet: e-MFP Microfinance and Environment Action Group Offers Tools for Microfinance Institutions Looking to Go Green

MicroCapital: Would you please tell us about the European Microfinance Platform (e-MFP) Microfinance and Environment Action Group?

Marion Allet: The e-MFP Microfinance and Environment Action Group was officially launched in February 2013. It is an initiative of various organizations that were already involved in “green microfinance,” such as MicroEnergy International, ADA, PlaNet Finance, Enclude, PAMIGA (the Participatory Microfinance Group for Africa), Deutsche Gesellschaft für Internationale Zusammenarbeit (GIZ) etc. A few years ago, there were very few actors addressing the issue of the environment within microfinance, so we thought there was a real need for sharing experiences. We also wanted to provide some practical tools to help stakeholders understand what green microfinance is and how to get involved.

MICROCAPITAL BRIEF: Grameen-Jameel Microfinance Donates $1m to Kiva Partnership “Change is in Your Hands,” Supporting Microlenders in Middle East, North Africa; Offers Additional $1m in Matching Funds

Kiva, a US-based nonprofit crowdfunding organization that raises money for microfinance institutions (MFIs), and Grameen-Jameel Microfinance Limited, a Cyprus-based nonprofit joint venture of the US-based Grameen Foundation and Saudi Arabia-based Abdul Latif Jameel Community Initiatives, have reportedly entered into a partnership to launch the “Change is in Your Hands” campaign, an initiative which uses the website http://www.kiva.org/middleeast to support lending initiatives that will provide financing to entrepreneurs in the Middle East and North Africa.

MICROCAPITAL BRIEF: Philippine Long Distance Telephone Company Purchases 10% Equity Stake in Rocket Internet for $445m with Eye on Mobile Payments

The Philippine Long Distance Telephone Company (PLDT), a Philippines-based telecommunications company, reportedly has purchased a 10-percent stake in Rocket Internet, a Germany-based web service provider and e-commerce investment firm, for EUR 333 million (USD 445 million).

MICROCAPITAL BRIEF: Indian Government Launches 15 “Technology Centres” to Support Micro-, Small, Medium-sized Enterprises (MSMEs)

The Ministry of Micro-, Small and Medium Enterprises (MSMEs), the Indian government agency in charge of regulating and supporting MSMEs, reportedly has launched its “Technology Centre Systems Programme,” which involves establishing 15 technology centers and improving the three existing such centers across the country.

MICROCAPITAL BRIEF: Microbanks Share Software Through Association of Microfinance Institutions (MFIs) in Rwanda

The Association of Microfinance Institutions in Rwanda (AMIR), a group of 62 member microfinance institutions (MFIs), is implementing a computer system to help its members improve their microfinance operations.