Monrovia, Liberia- Access Bank Liberia, Liberia’s first microfinance bank, officially opened its doors on Friday. The much anticipated public opening came on the eve of the release of MSC’s 2009 State of the Microcredit Campaign Report that announced the staggering news that over 106 million of the world’s poorest families have received microloans. This group will now include Liberians and thousands of Access Bank members. The new bank hopes to build upon these numbers by serving over 100,000 new borrowers over the first five years, disbursing an estimated US$26.7 million in loans to Africa’s poor- especially to poor women. The bank itself is also stimulating employment in the area- currently there are plans to expand to 12 branches with over 400 employees in the next five years.
The bank is the result of a two-year concerted effort by the International Finance Corporation (a division of the World Bank Group), the government of Liberia, and the country’s central bank. Officials stress the need for a bank with the ability to reach the underserved populations in countries similar to Liberia- where conflict eroded the private sector and the only surviving businesses are micro and small enterprises. This has created a high demand for microcredit loans in a country where less than 1% of the population has access to a bank account.