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Author: Craig Churchill - Lisa Morgan
We laud e-MFP and the other European Microfinance Award organisers for highlighting, via this year’s Award, the potential impact that financial inclusion can have on health care. This is indeed a critical issue. For low-income households and microentrepreneurs, ill health can be financially catastrophic – eroding savings, depleting working capital, causing loan repayment defaults and exacerbating indebtedness. Health related financial risks are a primary driver of impoverishment. The WHO estimates that about 150 million people around the world suffer financial catastrophe each year from out-of-pocket expenditure on health services, while 100 million people fall below the poverty line.

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Author: Daniel Rozas - Sam Mendelson
“The first wealth is health,” wrote Ralph Waldo Emerson. How particularly true this is for the global poor, for whom health is often the dividing line between the path to prosperity or a slide into destitution. To make matters worse, the combination of typically volatile and precarious incomes and the absence of high-quality universal health care where they live means low-income communities not only need access to health care, but also the ability to pay for it.

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Author: Jeff Ashe
It was the summer of 2004. Mamadou Biteye and I met a group of women traders at a market two hours from Bamako, Mali’s capital. Before we made our pitch for Saving for Change, the Savings Group Initiative I directed at Oxfam America, I asked, “Are any of you saving in a tontine.” Their hands shot up. One woman said, “We save money every week and each of us in turn receives her payout.” She described in detail how she organized her tontine as the others listened intently. Another woman chimed in “We save for a year and then divide the money when most of us need it.” Another added, “We save so we can buy what we need to sell wholesale. That way we make a lot more money.” In less than an hour, they described three solutions for saving money in useful amounts adapted to their specific needs.

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Author: Sam Mendelson
European Microfinance Week is the biggest thing the European Microfinance Platform (e-MFP) does each year. The 2020 event encapsulated much about the financial inclusion sector – the good, the bad and the simply confusing – as it navigated the historic challenges of the past year. For starters, there’s the event itself. By last summer, it was already clear that EMW2020 would have to be entirely online. This meant a daunting array of new problems to solve and platforms and possibilities to grasp – along with real opportunities for this to be a blueprint for the future.

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Author: Weselina Angelow - Programme Director Scale2Save WSBI
These have been threatening times for financial service providers (FSPs) and customers. That’s especially true in Africa, where large-scale lockdowns across countries, besides causing economic setbacks for particularly low- and middle- income households, hit FSPs on many fronts. From office staff workarounds and increasing use of digital products for branch and agent operations and contact with informal groups, FSPs saw challenges unforeseen just a year ago. The pandemic has underscored the importance of a digital financial services-enabling environment and a refocus on the need to build financial health and resilience among the underserved and unbanked. Scale2Save – a programme active since 2016 – helps institutions in six African countries through the journey of navigating the rough waters of Covid-19.

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Author: Stuart Rutherford
As the European Microfinance Award 2020 on ‘Encouraging Effective & Inclusive Savings‘ moves to its final Selection Committee and High Jury stages, and the announcement of the winner during European Microfinance Week in November, e-MFP is publishing pieces from various experts who have worked in Savings over the decades. This, the second in the series is from Stuart Rutherford, a pioneer in the field – “Think ‘Bangladesh’ and you probably think ‘microcredit’. Rightly so. BRAC and Grameen Bank pioneered joint-liability credit groups for the poor in the 1970s. ASA hugely improved the model’s efficiency and it soon spread around the world. But look at a recent Grameen Bank balance sheet. As of 2018 Grameen Bank borrowers had loans worth 154 billion taka (about US$1.8 billion). But its savers held deposits worth 221 billion taka ($2.7 billion). The bank that pioneered loans for poor households now holds a lot of their savings. In this transformation, what was the role of the providers, and what was the role of their clients?”

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Author: Hans Dieter Seibel - e-MFP founding board member 2006-2015
As the European Microfinance Award 2020 on ‘Encouraging Effective & Inclusive Savings‘ moves to its final Selection Committee and High Jury stages, and the announcement of the winner during European Microfinance Week in November, e-MFP will be publishing pieces from various experts who have worked in Savings over the decades. Beginning with this one from Hans Dieter Seibel, a pioneer in the field – “In 1963 I went to Nigeria for a study on ‘Industrial Labor and Cultural Change’. In my interviews with factory workers, I found that many saved in a saving club, an ‘esusu’, and were looking forward to establishing their own small enterprise with esusu savings. Nigeria has a flourishing SME sector, spanning everything from hairdressers to app developers, from restaurants to hotels, and from welders to film production houses. Informal savings clubs and, more recently, microfinance banks (now organised in the Nigerian Microfinance Platform, which visited e-MFP in February), all savings-led, are their main sources of finance”.

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Author: e-MFP
We’re delighted to announce the publication of "Adapting to a New Normal", the latest annual paper that presents the outcomes of the European Microfinance Award 2019 on ‘Strengthening Resilience to Climate Change’. It is part of an Award publication series, produced since 2008, that details the issues and challenges of that year’s Award topic, summarises the Award process, profiles the Award semi-finalists and their relevant initiatives, and extracts factors for success that distinguish these programmes. More than ever, the lessons from the 2019 Award on how to protect clients, staff and institutions from external crises are especially relevant as a Covid-threatened sector seeks to adapt today to not just one, but two ‘new normals’. "Adapting to a New Normal" was written by e-MFP’s Sam Mendelson with support from Camille Dassy, Gemma Cavaliere, Gabriela Erice and Daniel Rozas. It opens with an explanation of the threats of climate change, what this ‘accretion of threats’ shares with the current Covid-19 crisis across the sector and the world at large, what financial services providers can do to protect vulnerable populations (and themselves) from the impacts of climate change, and then presents the climate change resilience initiatives of the ten semi-finalists across three broad categories: Increasing Resilience to Unpredictable/High-Impact External Shocks; Helping Clients Adapt to a Changing Climate; and Strengthening Institutional Resilience.

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Author: e-MFP
As part of our efforts to understand the impact of the COVID-19 pandemic on microfinance markets around the globe, e-MFP reached out to Cooperativa Tosepantomin in Mexico, a good and long-time friend of e-MFP, having been a winner of the European Microfinance Award in 2017. Via an email exchange, Álvaro Aguilar Ayón, Chairman of the Board of Directors, brought us up to speed on the situation on the ground: On 9 June 2020, the Mexican Ministry of Health reported that there were over 124,000 confirmed coronavirus cases, with 14,053 deaths since the first infections of this pandemic in our country. With these data, Mexico is one of the 10 countries with the most casualties due to COVID-19.

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Author: e-MFP
As part of our efforts to understand the impact of the COVID-19 pandemic on microfinance markets around the globe, e-MFP reached out to Advans CI in Cote d’Ivoire, a good and long-time friend of e-MFP, having been a winner of the European Microfinance Award in 2018. Via an email exchange, Mariam Djibo, CEO, brought us up to speed on the situation on the ground: To date, there have been 2,477 confirmed cases, of which 95% are in Abidjan, and 30 deaths. The government has built several testing centers in Abidjan and ordered 200 million masks. Given the statistics available and the potential impact of a strong economic crisis, restrictions on gatherings have recently been lifted and schools have been opened outside Abidjan. As of May 15 there is also an ease of restrictions within Abidjan.

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