MICROCAPITAL STORY: Unitus, Inc. and Whole Planet Foundation Announce Partnership With Jamii Bora Trust, a Kenyan MFI

Unitus, Inc. and Whole Planet Foundation (WPF), a Whole Foods Market foundation, announced plans to fuel the growth of microfinance in the coffee-growing regions of Kenya.  Specifically, the two will support Jamii Bora Trust, one of Kenya’s fastest growing microfinance institutions and a Unitus partner since 2003, expand into the rural coffee-growing regions of Central and Eastern provinces in Kenya.  This agreement, the amount of which was undisclosed, marks Whole Planet Foundation’s first entry into Africa. Continue reading

MICROCAPITAL STORY: Kenya Women Finance Trust (KWFT) Seeking to Attain Microfinance Regulated Institution Status

The Kenya Women Finance Trust (KWFT) recently announced plans to attain status as a microfinance regulated institution by next year. Speaking at the opening of a new branch, Jennifer Riria, the Chief Executive Officer, said that the transformation would allow the company to provide better services to women as well as offer numerous development opportunities. To read MicroCapital’s profile on Jennifer Riria, click here. Over the last several years, KWFT has sought to find the best legal organization structure. In 1991, the company was restructured as a not for profit limited by guarantee in 1991. In 2007, the company announced, and MicroCapital reported, that they were seeking to attain status as a commercial bank, however, it is not clear whether or not that transformation was ultimately made. Continue reading

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MICROCAPITAL STORY: Norwegian Microfinance Inititiative (NMI), a JV Between the Norwegian Investment Fund for Developing Countries (Norfund) and the Norwegian Agency for Development Cooperation (Norad), Launches NMI Global Fund and NMI Frontier Fund With a $100m Investment

Norwegian Microfinance Initiative (NMI), a microfinance joint venture between two government agencies, the Norwegian Investment Fund for Developing Countries (Norfund) and the Norwegian Agency for Development Cooperation (Norad) and several private institutions, has established two investment funds: NMI Global Fund and NMI Frontier Fund.  A total of USD 100 million has been committed by NMI’s owners, half of which was committed by Norfund.  The funds are expected to make their initial investments during the first quarter of 2009. Continue reading

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MICROCAPITAL STORY: Grameen-Jameel and Blue Orchard’s Arab Microfinance Investment Symposium Concludes that Microfinance in Arab World Totals US $5.5 billion

The Arab microfinance industry, with an estimated total market of USD 5.5 billion in the Arab world, remains a largely untapped area, it was reported in multiple Arab-based newspapers following the 2008 Arab Microfinance Investment Symposium held on November 30, 2008. The Symposium had a total of fifteen speakers, including speakers from Grameen-Jameel, the International Finance Corporation (IFC), Blue Orchard Finance, and a variety of other organizations involved in microfinance, although the majority of the press focused on the presentation by Heather Henyon, the General Manager of Grameen-Jameel. The microfinance institutions (MFIs) on the MFI Panel included Jordan’s Tamweelcom, Egypt’s DBACD, Tunisia’s enda inter-arabe, and Pakistan’s Kashf Foundation. Additionally, more than 150 delegates from the UAE, Egypt, Lebanon, Jordan, Palestine, Morocco, Tunisia and Pakistan discussed the potential of the microfinance industry in the Arab region. The 2008 Arab Microfinance Investment Symposium was co-hosted by Grameen-Jameel, a social-oriented business based in Dubai, and BlueOrchard, a microfinance investment manager located in Geneva, Switzerland and was covered in this MicroCapital Event. Continue reading

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MICROCAPITAL EXCERPT: “The Battle for the Soul of Microfinance,” by Financial Times Senior Columnist Tim Harford

What follows is an excerpt from Tim Harford’s piece “The Battle for the Soul of Microfinance,” which appeared in the Financial Times’ Weekend Reportage section on December 6, 2008.  Mr. Harford, a Senior Columnist at the Financial Times, has written an excellent introduction to the competing commerical and altruistic motivations behind microfinance–and the current disputes they have generated–that have come to dominate so much of the industry today.  The full piece also cites several interesting studies whose findings may affect microfinance institutions’ (MFIs) procedures for vetting micro-loan applicants or their manipulation of interest rates resulting from either profit-driven or philanthropic motives.  The full article is available online to those who have registered for free with the Financial Times. Continue reading

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MICROCAPITAL STORY: Botswana’s Letshego Holdings to Raise US$ 43.26 million in Shareholder Preference Scheme

Letshego Holdings, the Botswana-based microfinance institution (MFI), is planning to raise P 350 million (USD 43.26 million) through a share preference scheme that is anticipated to be put before shareholders at a special annual general meeting (AGM) in January 2009. The share preference scheme is intended to ensure that the existing shareholders increase their shareholding in Letshego and is open to all existing shareholders. According to the plan, after the January Special AGM, existing shareholders will be able to buy shares at a discounted price, and the offer will be open for a period of up to three weeks provided that the meeting approves it. This plan is in addition to the P 1 billion (USD 123.6 million) it plans to raise to fund its expansion, which was covered in this MicroCapital story. Continue reading

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MICROCAPITAL STORY: Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation Hosts Annual APEC Leaders Meeting in Lima, Peru and Pledges to Support Programs for Small and Medium Enterprise (SME) Development to Combat the Credit Crisis and Promote Regional Economic Integration

The Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation (APEC), an organization of 21 countries on the Pacific Rim that focuses on trade, investment, and other regional economic considerations, held its annual Leaders Meeting in late November in Lima, Peru.  The leaders of several member countries pledged to continue financial support for the development of small and medium enterprises (SMEs) in the region as a way to combat the credit crisis and to shore up economic growth.  The summit was organized under the theme “A New Commitment to Asia-Pacific Development,” a phrase meant to inspire the reduction of the wealth gap between developing and developed nations.  Continue reading

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MICROCAPITAL STORY: US Private Equity Group Emerging Capital Partners Invests $28m in Financial BC SA of Togo, Parent of FINADEV, a Microfinance Institution

Emerging Capital Partners (ECP), an international private equity firm focused on investing in Africa, purchased a USD 28 million stake in Financial BC SA (FBC), a privately held Lomé, Togo-based regional commercial bank.  The investment consists of common shares and convertible notes.  FBC will use the funds to expand its presence through central and western Africa. Continue reading

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MICROCAPITAL STORY: Brigham Young University’s Economic Self-Reliance Center Impacts Microfinance World Through its Public Programs, its Journal of Microfinance, and its ESR Review

Brigham Young University’s (BYU) Economic Self-Reliance Center (ESR Center) is an academic research center founded in 2003 with the “express purpose” of helping families pull themselves out of poverty and “become economically self-reliant.”  To achieve this mission, the ESR Center shares with low-income families abroad what it calls an “economic self-reliance model” (ESR model) through its network of over 100 partner organizations.  The center contends that microfinance practitioners can use the ESR model to assess which characteristics necessary for achieving self-reliance a family possesses, and which characteristics that family must work to find.  These characteristics include several “skills and abilities,” “attitudes and behaviors,” and “resources availabilities” that include intellectual capital, social capital, physical/financial capital, and human capital.  Center practitioners use the information gleaned from the model to make “interventions” to help “economically vulnerable” families.  It is unclear from the ESR’s website what these interventions entail, but it appears that they are meant to raise or create sustainable income streams for family members by spurring “microenterprise, microfranchising, enterprise education, and best business practices.”  The Center also explicitly states that it hopes to institute interventions that impact the greatest number of economically vulnerable families.  As of yet, the ESR Center does not seem to have a set of outcome measurement tools for measuring the impact of its programs on its families.   Continue reading

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MICROCAPITAL STORY: Challenges and Unique Solutions to Providing Microinsurance in West Africa

The products and services of most West African insurance companies target corporate clients and those individuals that are not living in poverty. The infrastructure of most insurance companies is not equipped to provide insurance to the poor. Microinsurance premiums are low, administrative costs are high, and traditional distribution channels are not always effective. Also, because premiums are low, microinsurance is a long term investment from the insurance company’s perspective as opposed to traditional insurance companies which collect larger premiums. All of these factors combined, reports Business Day, a Nigerian business news source, result in scarce microinsurance offerings to West Africa’s poor populations. Continue reading

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MICROCAPITAL STORY: DataX Credit Reporting Agency Provides Short-Term Lender CashNetUSA with Non-Traditional Credit Data on Clients Seeking MicroLoans

On November 20, CashNetUSA, a Chicago-based short-term online lender, announced that it will begin receiving its non-traditional credit data from the DataX Credit Reporting Agency (DataX), a Las Vegas-based data collection agency for the financial sector. DataX will collect and provide credit information to CashNetUSA on clients seeking micro-loans and other financial services. Although Microcapital typically covers only those newsworthy developments with an international scope, this new relationship between two American firms has been reported because of its potential spillover effects for international microfinance. Continue reading

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