An interview with Larry Reed

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This article was originally posted on the Arabic Microfinance Gateway

>> An interview with Larry Reed, director of the Microcredit Summit Campaign by Miranda Beshara

The first Microcredit Summit was held in 1997 and called for a nine-year campaign to reach 100 million of the world’s poorest families. In 2005, the Campaign was re-launched until 2015. In 2016, where does the Microcredit Summit Campaign stand and how does the future look like?

At the Halifax Global Summit in 2006, the microfinance community set two new goals for the Campaign. First, to reach 175 million of the world’s poorest families with microfinance and, second, to see 100 million of the world’s poorest families move out of extreme poverty. Our latest numbers, from 2014, show we still have a lot of work to do to reach those goals. Much of the growth of microfinance in recent years has been with families that are not living in extreme poverty. We have focused our attention on the types of finance that reaches to the poorest families, and helps them limit vulnerabilities and take advantage of opportunities.

In the recently published 2015 State of the Campaign Report, six pathways to lift people out of poverty were mapped. What are those pathways and why were they chosen? How is the Campaign planning to build commitments in the fast growing global financial inclusion sphere?

The Six Pathways are:

  1. Microfinance and Health
  2. Savings Groups
  3. Agricultural Value Chains
  4. Ultra-Poor Graduation Programs
  5. Conditional Cash Transfers
  6. Digital Finance

Each of these have demonstrated reach and results for those living in extreme poverty. They become even more powerful, though, when combined. For example, agricultural value chains that link to savings groups through digital finance can reach farther into rural areas and do more to help participants build assets over time. Government social protection programs that deliver cash transfers digitally and provide graduation programs that include training, mentoring, and health and nutrition provide ways from families to move from government assistance to providing their own livelihoods.

At the Summit, we will be highlighting some of the best examples of these combined approaches and celebrating organizations that are helping advance the frontier — with these and other financial inclusion strategies — through their Campaign Commitments.

Since 2013, 84 commitments have been launched by organizations reaching more than 150 million people world-wide. We’ll also be asking participants to commit to ways that they can be involved in reaching the poorest in their countries at the Commitment Wall. This is a space where individuals can voice how they’ve become inspired by the activities at the summit to take actions that will help reach the Campaign’s two goals. We’re organizing a chat series at the Commitment Wall during the breaks so participants can learn how their peers are taking on this challenge.

We also have Richard Leftley, of MicroEnsure, who will be closing out the Summit by sharing their experience of meeting their Commitment to reach 10 million individuals with health insurance, then exceeding that goal by nearly double. We hope to inspire the Summit participants to join this growing coalition and make a real contribution to ending poverty.

For the first time in the Campaign history, the Microcredit Summit will be held in the Middle East and North Africa (MENA) region. Why MENA was chosen and what is the Campaign planning to achieve from this year’s Summit?

Actually, it’s the second time. We held the Summit in Jordan in 2004. There are three main reasons for us to hold the Summit in this region again this year. First, governments and central banks in the region have made financial inclusion a major commitment, and we want to bring together experts in the region to help advance their work in this area. As part of the Summit we are working with the Arab Monetary Fund to provide a workshop for Central Bank governors and Ministry officials on “Implementing Financial Inclusion Mandates.”

Second, our local hosts, the Khalifa Fund for Enterprise Development, have made financial inclusion a major initiative, including setting up a US $200 million fund in Egypt for microfinance. Their generosity in supporting this Summit makes it possible for us to hold a Summit in a nice venue at a limited cost for participants.

Finally, this region of the world has historically played the role of a convening space where ideas from east and west come together and get further developed, improved upon and expanded. We want to see that in our Summit as we bring together leaders in areas of digital finance, national identification systems, social protection, regulation, savings, and microinsurance.