SPECIAL REPORT: On Microbusiness Support in Conflict Zones, a Discussion at European Microfinance Week

Major David Beskow of the US Military Academy told a crowd at European Microfinance Week, about distributing microgrants in eastern Baghdad, Iraq, largely to women shop-owners for refrigeration, generators or inventory. Funded by the Iraqi government and the US Army’s Commander’s Emergency Response Program, each grant ranged in size from USD 500 to USD 5,000. Although no repayment was required, each beneficiary business was documented through photos and other means before disbursal and after one and six months, in the presence of local police. Continue reading

SPECIAL REPORT: Distinguishing Multiple Lending from Over-indebtedness at European Microfinance Week

“Multiple borrowing was endemic,” in Bangladesh as of 2008, says Shameran Abed, the director of microfinance at Bangladesh-based Brac International, “but we didn’t know if this was bad, although we knew it was a risk.” Mr Abed was speaking this morning at the opening plenary of the last day of European Microfinance Week, which is organized by the Luxembourgish NGO European Microfinance Platform (e-MFP). In the past, he explained, the members of borrowing groups were good at letting Brac staff know who was a good credit risk. As the market was getting saturated, “Groups became less cohesive, so we couldn’t totally rely on them to tell us if individuals were becoming overindebted.” Continue reading

SPECIAL REPORT: Kompanion of Kyrgyzstan Wins $125k European Microfinance Award on Microfinance and the Environment for Pasture Land Management Training

Kompanion Wins EMAThe Kompanion Financial Group, a microfinance institution (MFI) in Kyrgyzstan, was selected today from three finalists to receive the Fifth European Microfinance Award, which includes a cash prize of EUR 100,000 (USD 125,000). Pictured at the right are Her Royal Highness the Grand Duchess of Luxembourg and Olesya Paukova the development director of Kompanion upon her receipt of the award on behalf of the MFI. Continue reading

 MICROCAPITAL BRIEF: European Fund for Southeast Europe (EFSE) Provides $12.5m to Fibabanka of Turkey to Support Small, Medium-Sized Enterprises (SMEs)

The European Fund for Southeast Europe (EFSE), a Luxembourg-based microfinance investment vehicle (MIV), will disburse a EUR 10 million (USD 12.5 million) senior loan to Fibabanka, a Turkish commercial bank, for lending to small and medium-sized enterprises (SMEs). Continue reading

SPECIAL REPORT: European Microfinance Week Participants: Transparency, Competition, Product-specific Rate Caps Can Lower Microloan Interest Rates

To open the two-day conference portion of European Microfinance Week, which is hosted by the 130-member, Luxembourg-based European Microfinance Platform (e-MFP), panelists and attendees addressed “Balancing financial inclusion, market stability and client protection.” Narda Sotomayor, who leads the Department of Microfinance Analysis at Peru’s Superintendencia de Banca, Seguros y Administradoras Privadas de Fondos de Pensiones, stated that “MFIs [microfinance institutions] moving further down market to serve new people is risky, as this group has less financial education, less collateral. An institution’s credit portfolio can deteriorate quickly unless its lending methodology is revised as part of a dynamic process.” On the issue of increasing financial capability, she added, “We find synergies between financial education and stability. This also leads to benefits for institutions and the whole system.” Continue reading

MICROCAPITAL BRIEF: The MasterCard Foundation, Nederlandse Financierings-Maatschappij voor Ontwikkelingslanden (FMO) Provide $6.5m to Launch Accion Africa Board Fellowship

Accion, a US-based nonprofit organization that offers services such as microenterprise loans and business training in 32 coutries; The MasterCard Foundation, a Canadian nonprofit that promotes financial inclusion and education in emerging markets; and Nederlandse Financierings-Maatschappij voor Ontwikkelingslanden (FMO), a Dutch development bank, recently partnered to launch the Accion Africa Board Fellowship in an effort to promote improved corporate governance and risk management practices in financial institutions assisting people with low incomes. Continue reading

MICROCAPITAL BRIEF: Symbiotics Issues Bonds Totaling $9.3m to Prasac of Cambodia, AccessBank Azerbaijan 

Symbiotics Group, a Swiss for-profit provider of investment and business services, recently issued bonds totaling USD 9.3 million to Prasac, a Cambodian microfinance institution (MFI), and AccessBank Azerbaijan, a microfinance bank (MFB) in Azerbaijan. Continue reading

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.” Continue reading

SPECIAL REPORT: At European Microfinance Week, University Meets Microfinance Action Group Presenting Awards for Papers on Impact Assessment, Downscaling via Banking Agents

Today, the University Meets Microfinance Action Group of the European Microfinance Platform (e-MFP) is presenting awards of EUR 500 (USD 620) each to students Hayyan Alia for “A Modified Household Economic Portfolio Model for Assessing Impact of Microfinance Using Diaries” and Eike Haas for his paper titled “Do Agent-assisted Banking Beyond Branches Channels Decrease Costs in Downscaling? A Qualitative and Quantitative Review.” The group also met earlier in the day as part of the series of Action Group meetings held during the first day of European Microfinance Week, which is hosted by e-MFP, a 130-member NGO located in Luxembourg. Continue reading

MICROCAPITAL BRIEF: Center for Agriculture and Rural Development (CARD) Mutually Reinforcing Institutions, Microcredit Summit Campaign, Freedom from Hunger Partner to Launch “Healthy Mothers, Healthy Babies” in Effort to Reach 600k Filipino Women

The Center for Agriculture and Rural Development Mutually Reinforcing Institutions (CARD MRI), a group of organizations in the Philippines that includes CARD Bank; the Microcredit Summit Campaign, a US-based advocacy organization; and Freedom from Hunger, a US-based non-governmental organization (NGO) that offers financial and health protection services in 23 countries, launched the program “Healthy Mothers, Healthy Babies,” which is expected to provide maternal health services to 600,000 Filipino women. Continue reading

MICROCAPITAL BRIEF: European Bank for Reconstruction and Development (EBRD) Considers $31m Investment in Green for Growth Fund (GGF) for Energy-Efficiency Financing

The European Bank for Reconstruction and Development (EBRD), a UK-based multilateral financial institution, is in the final stage of considering an investment totaling EUR 25 million (USD 31 million) in The Green for Growth Fund, Southeast Europe (GGF), a Germany-based fund that invests in energy efficiency (EE) and renewable energy sources. Continue reading

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. Continue reading

SPECIAL REPORT: A Risk Management “Graduation Model” for Microfinance

MicroCapital: You will be speaking in a few days at European Microfinance Week. How will you describe the state of risk management within microfinance and where it fits in the broader context of the industry?

Kevin Fryatt: In the last several years, we have seen a lot of focus on new technology and serving clients better through new product development, savings mobilization and agent networks, amongst other avenues. Similarly, institutions’ balance sheets are getting increasingly diverse in the types of funding they are sourcing. But within this, the conversation of risk management isn’t happening. There’s a sense of cynicism within the leadership of microfinance institutions (MFIs) toward risk management. It is often misunder-stood and confused with the roles of internal audit or compliance. It is often very difficult to quantify the value of risk management. Continue reading

MICROCAPITAL BRIEF: Absolute Portfolio Management’s Vision Microfinance Funds Loan $1.5m to Microfinance Institution in Ecuador

Absolute Portfolio Management (APM), an arm of Austria-based asset management group C-Quadrat, recently informed MicroCapital that it has disbursed credits worth approximately USD 1.5 million to an unspecified microfinance institution (MFI) in Ecuador from its Vision Microfinance funds – the Dual Return Fund-Vision Microfinance and the Dual Return Fund-Vision Microfinance Local Currency [1]. Continue reading

MICROCAPITAL BRIEF: MasterCard 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 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. Continue reading

MICROCAPITAL BRIEF: Green for Growth Fund, Southeast Europe (GGF) Lends $5m to Muganbank of Azerbaijan for On-Lending to Micro-, Small and Medium-Sized Enterprises (MSMEs) for Energy Efficiency Projects

The Green for Growth Fund, Southeast Europe (GGF), a Germany-based fund that invests in energy efficiency (EE) and renewable energy sources, recently disbursed a senior loan totaling USD 5 million to Muganbank, a financial institution that offers retail and corporate banking services in Azerbaijan, to on-lend to finance energy-efficient measures to be taken by households and micro-, small and medium-sized enterprises (MSMEs). Continue reading

MICROCAPITAL BRIEF: VisionFund Selling Georgian Microfinance Institution (MFI) Credo to Impact Investors AccessHolding, responsAbility, Triodos

VisionFund International, a subsidiary of US-based, Christian NGO World Vision International, recently received approval from the National Bank of Georgia to sell its stake in Microfinance Organization Credo, LLC (Credo), to “a consortium of social impact investors” including Access Microfinance Holding AG (AccessHolding), a holding company based in Germany that specializes in microfinance investments; responsAbility Investments AG (responsAbility), a company based in Zurich that primarily invests in developing economies; and Triodos Investment Management BV (Triodos), a subsidiary of Netherlands-based Triodos Bank. Continue reading

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. Continue reading