SPECIAL REPORT: Clients Come Clean on Sneaking Contraception, Practitioners Move from Serving Women to Empowering Households as European Microfinance Week Closes

During the closing day of European Microfinance WeekEuropean Microfinance Week 2017, Imran Matin of the US-based nonprofit Innovations for Poverty Action (IPA) stressed the importance of not just whether women will use financial services, but “what account ownership will translate into in terms of achievement.” Foreshadowing a theme of the session, he added that “intra-household dynamics is very important and also particularly difficult to measure.”

Bdour Al-Hyari of Jordan’s Microfund for Women (MFW) described a long-running insurance product offered by her microfinance institution (MFI). The coverage provides cash to clients who are hospitalized or have a family member who is. While health issues were a major cause of default in the past, women who got “hospital cash” from MFW reportedly repaid their loans at a rate of

SPECIAL REPORT: Zemidjam Motorbike Drivers in Benin, Civil Service Retirees in Senegal Participate in Human-centered Design of Mobile Money Products

During the closing day of European Microfinance Week, European Microfinance Week 2017 Karima Wardak of the UN Capital Development Fund argued that copying digital financial services from country to country is not working. The same is true of country-specific “products that were designed in board rooms,” she said. Gilda Zarate Chabluk of Innate Motion, a consultancy with staff in 27 countries, launched the discussion of how concepts of human-centered design can sidestep these problems. All staff involved in a project should observe and talk to end-users early in the design process. She suggests a meeting at the home of the end-user that lasts about two hours, with most of that time focused on the user’s life rather than the product. The idea is to create the product with the users not for the

SPECIAL REPORT: Finding Markets First, Adding Value Post-harvest to Engage Youth in Agriculture

At European Microfinance Week on Thursday,European Microfinance Week 2017 Ken Lohento of the Netherlands-based Technical Center for Agricultural and Rural Cooperation described successes engaging youth in agriculture through technology, even those with limited literacy. This can take the form of business tools to track spending or marketing as well as apps that help with pest management, for example. Even older “feature phones” can be used to receive information on markets and tips to optimize production. Among other efforts, Mr Lohento cited Agribusiness TV, which provides mobile-optimized video examples of youth profiting from agriculture, and a service in Senegal that connects owners of underused land with young people looking for acreage to till.

Dr Jonathan Agwe of the UN’s International Fund for Agricultural Development (IFAD) stated that youth rarely are motivated to engage in the planting and weeding of primary agriculture. “Certain elements of the value chain are more interesting to youth than others,” he said. Youth are more interested in secondary activities that are less labor-intensive, such as using machinery to process crops or vehicles to get products to market. Dr Agwe suggests first “locating a market that is paying premium prices” and then

SPECIAL REPORT: Registering Property, Charging Up to 3% Monthly Interest, Promoting Local Currency for Housing Loans at European Microfinance Week

At European Microfinance Week 2017the session titled “Building an Enabling Environment for Low-Income Housing Finance,” R V Verma, former Chairman of the National Housing Bank (NHB) (India) and consultant to the World Bank Group, said that “pushing the formal financial system to reach out to the informal sector [presents] a lot of challenges, but also huge opportunities. As part of financial inclusion, housing microfinance has a very important role.” Mr Verma went on to describe the market in India, which has an outstanding mortgage balance of INR 13 trillion (USD 200 billion) but a shortage of 24 million housing units. He also explained efforts to mitigate risk for housing lenders – both credit risk and issues with land title. Among the tools in use is a central registry of outstanding property loans. Mortgage insurance is also available even to informal workers – when lenders are willing to issue them loans.

Adedeji Adesemoye of the Central Bank of Nigeria described his institution’s efforts to address Nigeria’s shortage of 17 million housing units via resources including a loan package of USD 300 million awarded by the World Bank’s International Development Association (IDA) in 2012. While much of this package was for refinancing mortgages, USD 15 million of it was earmarked for housing microfinance. That portion was disbursed to nine microfinance institutions to test lending to existing (non-housing) clients for land acquisition, incremental construction and

SPECIAL REPORT: Cooperativa de Ahorro y Préstamo Tosepantomin (Mexico), Winner of the 2017 European Microfinance Award

From the European Investment Bank: The 2017 European Microfinance Award honours a microfinance institution, based in a developing country, that implemented innovative solutions to support access to better quality residential housing for low income, vulnerable and excluded groups, with no or limited access to housing finance in the mainstream sector.

The Cooperativa de Ahorro y Préstamo Tosepantomin helps marginalised rural Mexican communities with their residential housing building projects by offering savings and home loan products paired with technical support. The cooperative is also recognised for its promotion of eco-friendly building techniques.

This award, a EUR 100,000 prize from the Directorate for Development Cooperation and Humanitarian Affairs of Luxembourg’s Ministry of Foreign and European Affairs, was given at a ceremony held at the European Investment Bank, in the presence of Their Royal Highnesses the Grand Duchess and the Hereditary

SPECIAL REPORT: Scaling Up Implementation of Social Performance Management at European Microfinance Week

On European Microfinance Week 2017the first day of conference sessions at European Microfinance Week, experts in the social performance of microfinance institutions (MFIs) discussed how tools developed over the last ten years have reached a level of maturity warranting their wider rollout.

Cecile Lapenu of France-based Cerise described SPI4, the fourth iteration of a set of Social Performance Indicators intended to simplify reporting and provide a common language for different stakeholders to discuss social performance management (SPM). SPI4 incorporates the Smart Campaign’s Client Protection Principles and the Social Performance Task Force’s Universal Standards for SPM. It also includes optional modules on poverty, gender and the environment. To date, 432 SPI4 audits have been completed on institutions in 88 countries.

Jurgen Hammer of the Luxembourg-based Grameen Credit Agricole Foundation explained his organization’s use of the SPI4/ALINUS (Aligning Investors’ Due Diligence to the Universal Standards) framework to evaluate and benchmark the social performance of its partner MFIs. The foundation was meeting or exceeding the benchmark data in all categories except

SPECIAL REPORT: Rural Outreach and Innovation Action Group Highlights Apps, Soil Test Kits, Funding Agricultural Cooperatives

On European Microfinance Week 2017the first afternoon of European Microfinance Week, the European Microfinance Platform’s (e-MFP’s) Rural Outreach & Innovation Action Group presented a range of services that are reaching rural areas today.

Amsalu Alemayehu of Ethiopia’s Wasasa Microfinance explained that his organization has been financing agricultural cooperatives for about five years and how this can be an efficient method for serving a large number of people. However, the number of cooperatives Wasasa serves remains small. Mr Alemayehu explained that many of the 78,000 cooperatives in Ethiopia are member-managed and need significant capacity building to become creditworthy.

Marina Kortenbusch of Switzerland’s Business & Finance Consulting (BFC), who is also the chair of the Action Group, spoke passionately about

SPECIAL REPORT: European Microfinance Week Opens: Microfinance and Environment Action Group Celebrates Rollout of Solar Products in Central America, Ethiopia, Philippines; Turns Eye to Scaling Up

On European Microfinance Week 2017the opening day of European Microfinance Week, the European Microfinance Platform’s (e-MFP’s) Microfinance and Environment Action Group met to review its successes and make plans for the next two years.

Carla Palomares of ADA, the Luxembourgish nonprofit formerly known as Appui au Développement Autonome, explained her organization’s work with the 60-member Microfinance Council of the Philippines (MCPI) and Red Centroamericana y del Caribe de Microfinanzas (REDCAMIF), a network of networks serving 139 microfinance institutions (MFIs) in the Dominican Republic and six Central American countries. ADA helped MCPI develop a team dedicated to supporting its member MFIs in offering loans for clients to buy solar lamps. MCPI is now working with six additional MFIs to roll out solar loans. The program with REDCAMIF is similar, but involves microleasing for agricultural equipment and support regarding environmentally sustainable farming practices as well as

SPECIAL REPORT: HR Challenges Within MFIs at European Microfinance Week: “Banking Is People”

MicroCapital: Do you find that microfinance institutions (MFIs) tend to underinvest in human resources (HR)?

Rüdiger Meister: Definitely! Despite the efforts of many consultants in this field, the crucial role of HR management remains under-estimated. Technical assistance interventions, which often accompany investments into MFIs, tend to focus on discrete areas rather than following a holistic and structured approach to capacity building.

There is also a problem of short-term versus long-term thinking. In the short term, the MFI will function even if there are weaknesses in HR management. But in the long term, the MFI will have to pay for mistakes in areas such as

SPECIAL REPORT: MFIs in Afghanistan, Peru, Mexico Shortlisted for $118k “Microfinance for Housing” Award

The European Microfinance Platform (e-MFP) recently announced the following finalists for the European Microfinance Award, which in 2017 is focused on housing: First Microfinance Bank Afghanistan, Peru’s Mibanco and Mexico’s Cooperative Tosepantomin. The award, with a cash prize of EUR 100,000 (USD 118,000), will be presented during European Microfinance Week in

SPECIAL REPORT: “Lessons from Micro-leasing” at European Microfinance Week

MicroCapital: How does micro-leasing compare with microlending?

Manuel Hörl: Microcredits do not fit the needs of every situation. Often, the borrower cannot meet the collateral or other requirements for receiving a loan. Micro-leasing can allow a farmer, for example, to pre-finance the purchase of a productive asset, such as a cow. The farmer receives basic training in handling the asset, and risk is mitigated by

SPECIAL REPORT: Registration Open for European Microfinance Week; November 29 – December 1, 2017; Luxembourg

Event Name: European Microfinance Week

Event Date: November 29 – December 1, 2017

Event Location: Luxembourg

Summary of Event: On November 29, the European Microfinance Platform’s (e-MFP’s) ten Action Groups will meet to build on months of work by holding in-depth discussions and training on their focus topics, such as inclusive green finance, digital innovations, small and medium-sized enterprise (SME) finance and rural finance.

On November 30 and December 1, more than 80 organisations will be represented in over 30 sessions covering front line topics such as low-cost technology for financial services providers, responsible exits, reaching scale in inclusive green finance, rural youth

SPECIAL REPORT: Who Is Responsible in a Microfinance Equity Exit?

Now that three years have passed since CGAP and the Center for Financial Inclusion (CFI) at Accion published “The Art of the Responsible Exit in Microfinance Equity Sales,” this subject deserves a re-visit and perhaps expansion of the paper’s general principles into industry guidelines.

As the financial inclusion and impact investment industries mature and grow, so does the issue of how investors committed to advancing financial inclusion can “exit responsibly” from

SPECIAL REPORT: Christoph Pausch of e-MFP on Housing Finance and the 2017 European Microfinance Award

MicroCapital:European Microfinance Platform Why was housing selected as the theme of this year’s European Microfinance Award?

Christoph Pausch: It’s really a question of staying true to the underlying purpose of the Award: to highlight practices that are outside the microfinance mainstream, but are financially sustainable and deliver significant

SPECIAL REPORT: Application Period Open for $106k European Microfinance Award on Housing Until May 22

The European Microfinance PlatformEuropean Microfinance Platform (e-MFP) has begun accepting applications for the eighth iteration of its European Microfinance Award, which is focused this year on financing housing improvements for people with low incomes. The deadline to apply is May 22. The award, which includes a cash prize of EUR 100,000 (USD 106,000), will be presented at European Microfinance Week, which is being held

SPECIAL REPORT: European Microfinance Week Scheduled for November 29 – December 1, 2017, in Luxembourg

The European Microfinance PlatformEuropean Microfinance Platform (e-MFP) notified MicroCapital today that it has scheduled the next iteration of its European Microfinance Week for November 29 through December 1, 2017, at

SPECIAL REPORT: Digital Financial Services: Providing a “Ladder” Out of Poverty or Creating “Financial Exclusion”?

At European Microfinance PlatformFriday’s closing session of European Microfinance Week, representatives of Luxembourg-based MyBucks, US-based Opportunity International and India-based MicroSave argued about the risks and rewards of digital finance services. Vicki Escarra, the CEO of Opportunity International, said, “What we’ve done over the past five years to get to very rural areas is to use these digital channels.… To focus on women in Africa – not just women, but women living in