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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: 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 Kompanion Bank in Kyrgyzstan, a good and long-time friend of e-MFP, having been a winner of the European Microfinance Award in 2014. Via an email exchange, Margarita Cherikbaeva, CEO, brought us up to speed on the situation on the ground: As of morning May 20, there were 1,322 coronavirus infection cases in Kyrgyzstan, 37 cases for the last 24 hours. 949 people recovered (68.3% of the total number of registered COVID-19 cases). Analysis shows a downward trend starting from April 16. An increase was observed from April 5 to 20. The highest numbers were registered on April 11-12. The number of cases has started to decrease since end of April. Regarding the impact of COVID-19 on the economy of the Kyrgyz Republic, the Ministry of Economy projects a 6.8% decline in the annual GDP due to self-isolation.

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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 Kashf Foundation in Pakistan, a good and long-time friend of e-MFP, having been a winner of the European Microfinance Award in 2016. Via an email exchange, Roshaneh Zafar, Founder and Managing Director, brought us up to speed on the situation on the ground: "The novel coronavirus has wreaked havoc in the country. To date 31,728 cases have been confirmed in the country with 691 deaths. The province of Sindh and Punjab have been most impacted by the virus with 12,017 and 11,568 cases respectively. They are followed by KP (4,875), Balochistan (2,061), Islamabad (679) and GB/AJK (442/86). Moreover, as the country grapples with the coronavirus, the economic impact is mounting, with the economy expected to shrink to negative 1-1.5% against an expected growth rate of 2.4% during the current fiscal year. In addition, the imports are expected to decrease by 50-60% and the exports by 10-20%. The employment loss is also estimated at 20%".

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Author: e-MFP
Like many major microfinance markets, the Philippines microfinance sector is suffering from the twin threats of a public health emergency and the mitigation response which entails economic shutdown, both of which disproportionately impact vulnerable population segments and the financial providers that serve them. As part of our efforts to understand the impact of the pandemic on our partners, e-MFP reached out to Alalay sa Kaunlaran, Inc. (ASKI), a good and long-time friend of e-MFP, having been a winner and finalist of the European Microfinance Award on multiple occasions. Via an email exchange, ASKI brought us up to speed on the situation on the ground which has greatly affected the whole community including the microentrepreneur clients of ASKI.

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Author: Daniel Rozas
Liquidity has been foremost on the minds of just about everyone in the financial inclusion sector. Several essays on this site have delved into the topic. The first article in our liquidity series outlined three drivers for illiquidity: deposit withdrawals, operating costs, and maturing debt, and argues that maturing debt presents the greatest risk. But what does the data say? Here we will dig into that, and investigate just how severe the different elements of the liquidity crunch are to different categories of MFI around the world. We don't have access to sector-wide data reflecting the situation right now. Nobody does. But we can get a good view of what may be happening from historical data collected by MIX Market over many years. Let's start with the most basic question. Assume an MFI is operating under complete shutdown, with no repayments, no new disbursements, and no other inflow or outflow of funds - it's operating entirely from cash reserves. How many months would it be able to survive before the money runs out?

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Author: Daniel Rozas - Sam Mendelson
In our first piece in this series "Keeping the Patient Alive - Adapting Crisis Rubrics for a Covid World", we introduced the analogy of the emergency room doctors trying to treat a critically ill patient - a financial services provider (FSP), its staff and clients in lockdown or socially distancing, unable to travel and with incomes collapsing, health expenditures increasing, and some sick or dying. Repayments are close to impossible, and new loan applications are flat. But operational expenses continue, and it’s a race against the clock. In short, this patient is critical. To continue the analogy, ensuring the reciprocal trust and confidence of staff and clients and investors is like treating a patient’s organs, with interventions from pharmacology to surgery to transplant. We’ll get to that, though. For now, the challenges need triage. The patient can’t breathe, so she cannot oxygenate and circulate her blood. This, to come back to our institution, is the critical need for liquidity.

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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 2018, the theme of the Award was 'Financial Inclusion through Technology'. Advans Côte d’Ivoire, part of the Advans Group, is a non-bank financial institution in the Ivory Coast which won for its response 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 a digital savings and payment solution, with wallet-to-bank and bank-to-wallet transfer services that enable producers’ cooperatives to make digital payments to farmers for their crop revenue. We’re delighted to catch up with them in this interview.

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Author: Anna Kanze - Grassroots Capital Management
Latin America and the Caribbean (LAC) has the potential to be the “breadbasket of the world”, with a significant portion of the world’s fresh water and arable farmland. Small farmers represent over 80% of the total holdings and provide between 30 -40% of the region’s agricultural GDP. However, rural areas continue to be afflicted by high ratios of poverty, which far exceed the regions’ average. Additionally, smallholders are especially vulnerable to climate change, which increases their food insecurity and widens the gender divide, given that women are often already restricted from owning land or accessing resources despite making up a significant part of agricultural labour. In LAC, 39 million people are undernourished and severe food insecurity is on the rise, worsened by climate extremes. The Prospero Microfinanzas Fund, co-managed by Grassroots Capital Management PBC (Grassroots) and BIM, tackled these issues in six of its nine portfolio companies with mostly rural and agriculture-focused clients in LAC. As the fund is winding down in 2019, Grassroots reflects on four key lessons as we launch a new initiative to address food security, climate resiliency and the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) in LAC.

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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 2014, the theme of the Award was 'Microfinance and the Environment', focusing on microfinance initiatives to improve environmental issues in developing economies, and encourage the sector to find innovative solutions to environmental challenges. Established in Kyrgyzstan since 2004, Kompanion Financial Group provides microloans in combination with technical assistance to small-scale farmers and pastoralists (livestock herders and shepherds) to promote sustainable agriculture and natural resource management. The winning initiative presented for the 2014 Award, Kompanion’s 'Pasture Land Management Training Initiative’, was an ethno-ecological approach to pasture land preservation, addressing the pressing issue of pasture land degradation in Kyrgyzstan. It consists of a specialised loan package, 'Credits for Conservation', linked with a training program. We’re delighted to catch up with them in the fourth of our interviews.

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Author: e-MFP
“Any sufficiently advanced technology is indistinguishable from magic”, wrote Arthur C. Clarke. Put aside cynicism about the perils of our technology-obsessed culture, focus on how communication and convenience have been changed in recent years, and then – try to imagine how transformational the current technological revolution must be for the financially excluded in low-income countries. The ability to predict the weather; contact vendors or customers; send, save, receive or borrow money affordably and immediately; find new markets – this is magical in all but name. It’s happening so fast, too. The mobile phone and Internet are both barely twenty years old. The internet-connected smartphone – a tool of almost limitless utility – is half that age. What technology has done for the lives of richer consumers in the developed world may be nothing to what it can do for the financially excluded. These were the messages at a joint e-MFP/FIF UK Offsite Session held at Allen & Overy in London on 23rd May. The event was entitled 'Financial Inclusion through Technology' – the theme of the European Microfinance Award 2018 – and served to summarise the process and takeaways of that Award (including via a launch of the new report, 'Digital Pathways in Financial Inclusion') and bring together a panel of experts to debate the biggest issues in the financial inclusion and technology sector.

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