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Author: Rob Kaanen - Scale2Save
The Covid-19 pandemic is the latest crisis that is putting pressure on financial service providers (FSPs) globally. Lockdowns and regulatory moratoriums on loan repayments, together with a lower business activity are putting serious constraints on FSP’s liquidity positions. Early in the Covid pandemic, there was widespread concern that liquidity constraints could wipe out many of the financial institutions that serve low-income customers and small- and medium sized enterprises. Two recent reports issued by CFI/e-MFP and CGAP point to the vital importance of managing liquidity in the midst of a crisis. After all, the quickest path to failure of an FSP is running out of cash. Available liquidity should be used to retain the confidence and trust of both customers and creditors while continuing to operate and paying staff. Once stability is achieved, an FSP can start its recovery, but this cannot be achieved without retaining the confidence of customers, investors, staff, and the regulator. Scale2Save is a partnership between WSBI and the Mastercard Foundation to establish the viability of small-scale savings in six African countries. To analyse the impact of the Covid crisis on the liquidity profile of our partner FSPs, we compared the pre-crisis liquidity position at end of year 2019 with that at end of 2020 when a cautious and gradual recovery of the Covid pandemic had set in

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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: 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: Daniel Rozas
Last week saw two nearly identical financial scandals hit two very different parts of the world. One was the revelation that Wells Fargo, one of the leading US banks, had falsely created some 2 million accounts for customers who never asked for them and were largely unaware of their existence. The other was about banks in India secretly depositing 1 rupee (0.015 euro) into their customer’s accounts. What’s remarkable is the sheer silliness of the scandals – for the most part, this was not a case of money being stolen or fraudulently taken from customers. Instead, the scandals were being driven by the need to meet targets. In the case of Wells Fargo, staff were under pressure to meet sales goals. In the case of India, the banks needed to comply with government targets aimed at expanding savings accounts to financially excluded populations. In both cases staff managed to meet the targets, while completely missing the objectives the targets were meant to achieve. The financial writer Matt Levine put this brilliantly: “Measurement is sort of an evil genie: It grants your wishes, but it takes them just a bit too literally.”