At BSHF we were very interested to learn about the European Microfinance Awards and really keen to hear more about some of the great practice being identified. We have been running the World Habitat Awards since 1985. In searching for and sharing the best examples, we have a lot in common with e-MFP. Our objective is to identify and highlight approaches to housing across the world which make outstanding contributions to people’s living conditions. As a minimum we believe everyone should be able to afford their home, have access to basic services, and be free from the threat of eviction or displacement. This might seem like stating the obvious, but it isn’t something that can be taken for granted. Over the years, a large range of excellent examples have been identified in the countries of the global North and the global South. From the very beginning, our focus has been not only on the identification of good housing practices but also in the sharing of knowledge and experience to others who can transfer them in their own situations. The first international peer exchange to a World Habitat Award project winner was in 1987 and the exchanges have continued ever since. Really great approaches recognise, provide and guarantee the right to safe and secure housing; treat people and the environment with dignity; and work collaboratively to get the best out of people and places. Contexts, actors and circumstances vary hugely, but everybody tackling housing faces three crucial ‘sustainability’ challenges – social, environmental and financial
The second e-MFP ‘Offsite Session’ of the year took place in London on Monday 10th April, in partnership with the UK’s Financial Inclusion Forum – the leading British financial inclusion network. The session was entitled "The Role of MFIs in improving access to and quality of education: Perspectives on the 7th European Microfinance Award and the European Dialogue" and was timed to coincide both with the launch of "Investing in Tomorrow" (e-MFP’s latest Dialogue) and last week’s launch of the call for applications for the upcoming Award on Housing. The event brought together a panel including Arc Finance’s Sam Mendelson (who was the lead author of the paper, as well as a member of the Award Selection Committee), Kaspar Wansleben from Luxembourg Microfinance and Development Fund (a supporter of two of the 2016 Award finalists and key investor in education finance) and Nathan Byrd from Opportunity International’s Education Finance team, along with e-MFP’s Daniel Rozas. Katy Jones from Big Issue Invest and the Financial Inclusion Forum chaired the packed out event, generously hosted by Allen & Overy. Daniel opened the session by outlining the importance of education – its primary importance to households at all income levels and in all places, and the obstacles to universal access in low-income countries. The failure or inability of governments to provide free or affordable quality education to its people is a key reason for the emergence of low-cost private schools in many countries (and the channel for several of the Award semi-finalists’ initiatives).
Evidence continues to point towards financial inclusion’s role in helping people move out of poverty, reducing income inequality, and facilitating macroeconomic growth. It will be critical to helping the global community achieve the goal of eradicating poverty by 2030, especially as we strive to reach the places and people where it is most entrenched and the hardest to fight – such as in rural agricultural communities.
Each year, e-MFP launches the European Microfinance Award, in conjunction with the Luxembourg Ministry of Foreign and European Affairs and the Inclusive Finance Network Luxembourg (InFiNe.lu). The Award invites applications from financial institutions that are innovating, exploring and testing new ideas, that go beyond their core financial services, and exemplify the evolution of the microfinance sector beyond boilerplate microenterprise credit.
“Refugee microfinance” is too risky, right? After all, refugees are more likely to default on their loan because they don’t have ties to the local community or profit-generating enterprises. They are likely to rejected by existing clients as “competition” or simply as outsiders. Refugees’ lack of collateral and their unstable legal status give them little incentive to develop a long-term relationship with the financial service provider (FSP). Right?
Not necessarily. In fact, quite the opposite has been true for Al Majmoua, a Lebanese microfinance institution (MFI) serving Syrian, Pilipino, and Palestinian migrants and refugees (in addition to low-income Lebanese clients).