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Author: e-MFP

2019 marks ten editions of the European Microfinance Award and to celebrate, e-MFP has decided to reach out to the previous winners, for a ‘where are they now?’ blog series, published throughout 2019, to look at what they have been doing with their initiative since they won, and how the winning of the Award has helped, and what plans they have in store. In 2008, the theme of the Award was "Socially Responsible Microfinance", which aimed to highlight and catalyse initiatives that represented a breakthrough in promoting social responsibility and performance in microfinance. Buusaa Gonofaa MFI, founded in 2000, provides micro-lending and saving services to resource-poor households in Ethiopia to improve their livelihood. Buusaa Gonofaa has a particular focus on women, landless youth and smallholder farmers. Buusaa Gonofaa’s initiative, the development of a Client Assessment and Monitoring System or Social Ledger, was presented for the 2008 Award. Buusaa Gonofaa MFI had internally developed a scorecard including 20 indicators related to the poverty and progress of its clients’ wellbeing over time. We’re delighted to catch up with them in the third of our interviews.

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Author: e-MFP

2019 marks ten editions of the European Microfinance Award and to celebrate, e-MFP has decided to reach out to the previous winners, for a ‘where are they now?’ blog series, published throughout 2019, to look at what they have been doing with their initiative since they won, and how the winning of the Award has helped, and what plans they have in store. In 2016, the theme of the Award was "Microfinance & Access to Education". Kashf Foundation of Pakistan won for Kashf School Sarmaya, or Kashf Education Financial Program (KEFP), a holistically designed credit facility providing access to finance to Low Cost Private Schools as well as a capacity building and training for teachers and school owners, and a training of trainers on Financial Education for Youth. We’re delighted to catch up with them in the second of our interviews.

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Author: e-MFP

2019 marks ten editions of the European Microfinance Award and to celebrate, e-MFP has decided to reach out to the previous winners, for a ‘where are they now?’ blog series, published throughout 2019, to look at what they have been doing with their initiative since they won, and how the winning of the Award has helped, and what plans they have in store. In 2012, the theme of the Award was "Microfinance for Food Security", focusing on microfinance initiatives that contribute to improving food production and distribution conditions in developing countries. Alalay Sa Kaunlaran Inc. (ASKI) of The Philippines won for serving smallholder farmers and fostering effective market linkages and here we catch up with them in the first of our interviews.

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Author: e-MFP

It hardly needs saying that Climate Change represents the greatest issue we face today. Slowly – excruciatingly so – action is being taken at the macro level, reining in carbon emissions to attempt to keep global temperature increases within manageable levels. However, tacking Climate Change requires battles on many fronts, and not just on the mitigation side (minimising the actual Climate Change that takes place) but on the adaptation side too: how can we live in a world with a climate different to that we’ve had before? This is the challenge selected as the theme of the €100,000 European Microfinance Award 2019, which launches mid-March. Entitled “Strengthening Resilience to Climate Change”, it highlights the important role of the financial inclusion sector in increasing the resilience of low-income and financially excluded populations vulnerable to the effects of Climate Change.

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Author: e-MFP

This is the second in a publication series of three interview pieces with the three finalists for the European Microfinance Award on "Financial Inclusion through Technology". ESAF Small Finance Bank (ESAF SFB) is an Indian MFI that is leveraging the rapid expansion of mobile phone and smartphone penetration in India to digitise a wide range of its lending processes, in particular customer onboarding, electronic applications, customer financial training, credit appraisal, in-field verification, mandatory customer identity and address verification using eKYC, as well as opening of accounts, cashless disbursement and paperless collections of loan repayments. ESAF’s field officers use Internet-connected tablets with biometric identity verification and its clients have QR-enabled Aadhaar Cards – with Government-issued 12-digit unique identify numbers based on biometric and demographic data. Their details are automatically transmitted for credit bureau verification, and clients are given ATM cards to withdraw money in convenient tranches from any ATM.

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Author: e-MFP

This is the first in a publication series of three interview pieces with the three finalists for the European Microfinance Award on "Financial Inclusion through Technology". Advans Côte d'Ivoire (Advans CI) is a NBFI in the Ivory Coast which offers payment, saving and credit services enabled by an Advans account linked to a MTN mobile money account. Advans CI has responded to traceability and safety issues faced by cooperatives paying cocoa farmers, as well as low school enrolment due to lack of regular cashflow among farmers, by offering its digital savings and payment solution, with wallet-to-bank and bank-to-wallet transfer services, enabling producers’ cooperatives to make digital payments to farmers for their crop revenue. Since 2017, Advans CI has been also providing small digital school loans, based on an algorithm reflecting farmers’ cashflows. Advans CI also successfully negotiated free MTN transfers between mobile wallets and Advans accounts for their farmer clients.

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Author: Sam Mendelson

There’s a saying in technology circles: “If you’re not paying, then you’re the product.” Nothing could be more axiomatic in the current zeitgeist, as shown by Mark Zuckerberg’s recent testimony in front of Congress to explain the ongoing furore about the sale of Facebook users’ personal data to nefarious entities. Facebook, of course, is free to use. Its users – and the data we produce – are the product. The advertisers and other beneficiaries of that data are its customers. Surprisingly, this little axiom long pre-dates social media. In fact, it goes back at least as far as 1973, when artists Richard Serra and Carlota Fay Schoolman broadcast a short video entitled “Television Delivers People.” But whatever people have until now understood of their relationship with technology platforms such as Facebook and Google, there can be no doubt that the mood has turned. For all the Pollyanna-ish talk of liberation, efficiency and modernization, technology is increasingly seen as the proverbial double-edged sword – something not just from which to benefit, but also, as CFI’s Elisabeth Rhyne has argued just this week, from which to be protected. The protection of clients is central to financial inclusion (or, at least, it is when done well). Technology, too, becomes more and more embedded in how financial services can be offered to low-income and excluded client segments. Coming with it are the well-known opportunities to reduce costs, increase outreach, drive financial education and in particular help remote populations access information and tools to increase their income and protect themselves from shocks.

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Author: e-MFP

We’re delighted to announce the publication of the latest European Dialogue, presenting the outcomes of the European Microfinance Award 2017 on 'Microfinance for Housing'. The Dialogue series has been published since 2008, and each year one of them is dedicated to the European Microfinance Award, providing e-MFP a great opportunity to present the process, the applicants and the findings from the extensive Award process to a broader audience than those at European Microfinance Week and the Award ceremony. This latest Dialogue was written by e-MFP’s Sam Mendelson with support from Award consultants Katarzyna Pawlak and Ewa Bańkowska, and e-MFP’s Gabriela Erice and Daniel Rozas, and presents the housing programmes of the ten semi-finalists across several sections. Entitled 'Building New Foundations in Housing Microfinance', it looks at the innovations underway in what has for too long been a niche product, but which is growing in importance as MFIs respond to the fact that so many of their financial services are used for housing anyway. Now, they increasingly see the opportunity to innovate in providing a range of financial products and non-financial support to help clients improve their homes, addressing issues of safety, security, health and income-generation in the process.

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Author: e-MFP

At the time of year when we’re coming up to the launch of the next European Microfinance Award (on 'Financial Inclusion Through Technology', application period opens mid-April), it’s a great opportunity to check in on the progress of a previous winner. In November 2016, Kashf Foundation won that year’s 'Microfinance and Access to Education' Award for its pioneering efforts in the low-income education sector in Pakistan, particularly through low-cost private schools (LCPS) – the only MFI in the country to offer an education finance product that combines access to finance with capacity building trainings for teachers and school owners. Kashf was established in 1996 to provide microcredit facilities and other financial and non-financial services to poor households. It targets mostly women and aims at enhancing their incomes, savings, food security, and improving access to health and education. Kashf offers a range of products and services including microcredit, micro-insurance (health and life insurance), savings, financial education, business development services, and social advocacy interventions aiming at creating awareness about gender discrimination and social issues at the community level.

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Author: Anais Concepción - Omtrix

In 2010, Omtrix, a microfinance fund manager based in Costa Rica, saw that the greatest barriers to higher education for low-income youths was lack of access to financing. Omtrix wondered if this need could be met by microfinance institutions. Serving this sector would certainly meet their mandates, and MFIs already knew how to reach and serve low-income people. Omtrix hypothesized that under the right conditions, and with the right approach, student loans could be a viable product for MFIs. They decided to create a new fund to promote higher education. The new fund, called The Higher Education Finance Fund (HEFF), would lend to MFIs so that they could in turn on-lend to bright young people whose aspirations lay beyond their financial reach. HEFF’s funding would be accompanied by a technical assistance program to train MFI staff in how to appraise, monitor, and collect on student loans, as well as offer other tools to launch a new product. Additionally, HEFF would serve as a pilot program to be replicated by other MFIs or funds in the future and across the globe. Over the past six years, HEFF’s original assumptions have been tested, and the innovative program has experienced some growing pains. Omtrix has begun the process of capturing lessons learned and best practices to disseminate those lessons to anyone who may want to replicate or build on HEFF’s model.

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