Sohelia Naznin Haque of Society for Development Initiatives (Bangladesh) discusses the role of microfinance to help end poverty and the lessons learned at the 18th Microcredit Summit with Miranda Beshara, editor of the Arabic Microfinance Gateway.
Haque echoed Dr. Muhammed Yunus, supporting the goals of zero poverty, zero unemployment, and financial inclusion through technological advancement. She explains how SDI reaches the poor in a way that big banks do not, going to their homes and visiting rural areas.
“We go to them, think about or listen to their demands, needs, motives, drives. According to that, we make our microfinance products and try fulfill their demands,” said Haque. “[Commercial] banks’ interest rates are too high, but our interest rates are not too high according to the demand we provide them.”
“The Arab world has the lowest level of financial inclusion.”
This was the statement made by Dr. Abdulrahman Al Hamidi, director general and chairman of the Arab Monetary Fund (AMF) at the opening of the 18th Microcredit Summit in Abu Dhabi in March.
He cited World Bank data stating that 16 to 17 million small businesses in the Arab region have no access to financing and official financial services.
The theme of the summit, “Frontier Innovations in Financial Inclusion,” attracted 1,000 delegates from 60 countries. Jointly organized by the Khalifa Fund for Enterprise Development, the Arab Gulf Programme for Development (AGFUND), and the Microcredit Summit Campaign, the event was held March 14-17.
Ghada Waly, Egypt’s Minister of Social Solidarity, and Nobel laureate, Muhammad Yunus, founder of Grameen Bank and the “father of microfinance,” got into a heated debate about the whole thesis of economic theory. The two distinguished speakers were on the panel for the “Scaling Business Models for Social Impact” plenary at the 18th Microcredit Summit (March 14-17 in Abu Dhabi).
Businesses have the ability to scale, delivering products and services on a global basis by providing for the needs and desires of their customers. But, the business focus on maximizing profits often lead limited attention to social challenges. Nonprofits have shown the ability to address a large variety of social problems, but the need to raise funds from donors often limits their ability to scale to the level of the problems they seek to address. Social businesses combine these two organizational models, using the power of business to solve some of the world’s most pressing social problems.
Minister Waly argued at the end of the session that businesses contribute to the well-being of society and to ending poverty — whether they do CSR or have a social mission or not — simply by creating jobs, paying taxes, and so on.
“Those companies that do not even do CSR [corporate social responsibility] but provide a service that is needed for society. Be it a pharmaceutical company or garment company, if they employ people, pay them fairly, and create jobs, this is good enough and this is very much needed. So you need everything.”
Prof. Yunus countered that human beings are both selfish and selfless, and the business world and economics can be structured to lift up the selfless side of human nature.
Muhammad Zubair Mughal of Al Huda Center of Islamic Banking and Economics attended his first Microcredit Summit. He discusses Islamic microfinance, the role of microfinance to help end poverty and the lessons learned at the 18th Microcredit Summit with Miranda Beshara, editor of the Arabic Microfinance Gateway. Mughal learned from the Summit about different techniques for poverty alleviation. Specifically, he appreciates the focus on financial education, insurance, and integrating health service.
Al Huda is dedicated to developing Islamic microfinance, poverty alleviation, and social development. “There is a misconception that Islamic microfinance is only for Muslims,” said Mughal. “No. Islamic microfinance is a system which can be utilized by Muslims and non-Muslims for poverty alleviation and social development,” Mughal concludes.
Alia Farhat of Al Majmoua (Lebanon) discusses her organization, the role of microfinance to help end poverty — in particular with the Syrian refugee crisis — and the lessons learned at the 18th Microcredit Summit with Miranda Beshara, editor of the Arabic Microfinance Gateway.
Al Majmoua was founded in 1994 and is the leading microfinance organization in Lebanon, managing a portfolio of US $52 million. She believes that microfinance is part of the value chain to end poverty and that MFIs need to provide more than just finance to end poverty. Al Majmoua offers microinsurance and savings products as well as to entrepreneurship and financial literacy training.
Farhat describes how Al Majmoua, which means “the group,” has evolved from its group lending origins to its current work with refugees. Lebanon, a population of only 4.5 million, has seen an influx of 1.3 million Syrian refugees over the last three years. “We needed to do something” to help, she explains, so they started with non-financial services to women and youth such as vocational and entrepreneurship training.
Bdour Alhyari of Microfund for Women (Jordan) talks with Miranda Beshara, editor of the Arabic Microfinance Gateway, at the 18th Microcredit Summit. Microfund for Women launched a Campaign Commitment in 2015. Commitments are specific, measurable, and time-bound actions organizations take to support the Campaign goal to help 100 Million families lift themselves out of extreme poverty. “It is in our mission to enable and empower women at so many levels,” says Alhyari. “We thought we need to be part of this Campaign and commit to act, encourage others to commit to act.” (Learn more here.)
Microfinance plays “a great role” to help end poverty, says Alyhari, because it enables the financially excluded to gain access to the financial system. “Eighty percent [of the world’s population] are not allowed to access finance. Microfinance provides them with financial resources to enable them to participate in the development of societies, of communities. They [beneficiaries and clients] take the money. They create businesses, they continue their learning, their education, to enable them to be part of the development cycle. Gradually this will help to better livelihoods.”
Finally, Alhyari reflects on her time at the 18th Microcredit Summit. “The Summit has brought so many different expertise from different parts of the world,” she says. “We have shown our experience in microinsurance [and], providing the caregiver program, and we heard about other examples in microinsurance, green energy, and so many other topics, [such as] youth. It was a good platform to have this exchange to look at the expertise of each other and learn from it.”
Abu Dhabi, UAE: His Royal Highness Prince Abdulaziz bin Talal bin Abdulaziz Al Saud, His Highness Sheikh Nahyan bin Mubarak Al Nahyan, Minister of Culture, Youth and Community Development, UAE, and Her Majesty Queen Sofia of Spain honoured winners of the 2016 AGFUND International Prize for Pioneering Development Projects at a grand award ceremony held last evening in Abu Dhabi.
The event was held as part of closing ceremony of the 18th edition of the Microcredit Summit, which was held under the patronage of His Highness Sheikh Hazza bin Zayed Al Nahyan, Vice Chairman of the Abu Dhabi Executive Council. It was attended by His Excellency Hussain Al Nowais, Chairman of Khalifa Fund for Enterprise Development, Nasser Bakr al-Kahtani, CEO of AGFUND, high level government officials, representatives of the local and international organisations, development experts, diplomats and media representatives.
>> 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.
Join the Mifos Initiative and DreamStart Labs in a new, bold, and momentous initiative. They are collaborating on a joint Campaign Commitment that embodies the spirit of the 100 Million Project with its measurable approach and global outreach for the financial inclusion of the world’s extreme poor.
These two Commitment Makers will begin by providing a sample of savings groups from various countries with software to manage their financial records. Working in the lean startup method of “build-measure-learn,” they will adjust and fine-tune their software to meet the needs of the extreme poor. Not only will the software empower families and communities to become part of the formal financial services system, but more importantly, it will provide crucial data that will improve product design and the lives of the families who receive them.
BECOME PART OF THIS INITIATIVE. Mifos and DreamStart are looking for a partner to roll out this platform. The ideal partner for this project will be a highly motivated, committed organization with a global network of saving groups. The Mifos Initiative and DreamStart Labs hope to welcome this partner by the end of the month and announce this exciting new Commitment at the 18th Microcredit Summit in Abu Dhabi this March 14-17.
The Microcredit Summit Campaign has long been committed to promoting the uptake of measurement tools in the microfinance sector, especially the poverty measurement tools. Such tools provide MFIs the means to know for sure if they really are reaching the poorest. More recently, we have encouraged MFIs to implement these tools to track the movement of clients (hopefully) out of poverty. At the 18th Microcredit Summit next month, we have several sessions that will show participants the benefits and challenges of such tools, including the Client Outcome Performance (COPE) Indicators Database, which you’ll read about here.
>> Authored by Bobbi Gray, Freedom from Hunger
When I joined Freedom from Hunger several years back, I had the responsibility to carry on a decades-long commitment to research and evaluation. My predecessor, Barbara MkNelly, as well as my then-supervisor and president of Freedom from Hunger, Christopher Dunford, were already known for their contributions to the research efforts of the growing microfinance sector and the original set of SEEP/AIMS client assessment tools. Freedom from Hunger’s commitment to promoting easy-to-use and cost-effective tools also led to years of developing monitoring and evaluation systems for microfinance organizations that were coined as “Progress Tracking.” Fast-forward several years, and this is much better known as Social Performance Management.
We are pleased to post an update from Grameen Foundation about the Campaign Commitment that they launched in 2014. Focused on supporting the growth of the use of a very effective poverty measurement tool, the PPI®, their Commitment also underscores the importance of using the data from tools like this in helping to improve the way we support and serve those living in poverty.
You can learn first-hand how such tools can be used, not just to prove that you are reaching the extreme poor, but to improve the services that you offer and the way you interact with the extreme poor. We are organizing a breakout session at the 18th Microcredit Summit called “Innovations in Measuring Social Impact.” Learn more and register today!
>> Authored by Julie Peachey, Grameen Foundation
In early 2014, Grameen Foundation made several commitments, as part of the Microcredit Summit Campaign’s 100 Million Project, towards achievement of the collective goal of helping 100 million families escape poverty. Our commitments focused on demonstrating use of the Progress out of Poverty Index® (PPI®) for measuring household-level poverty, because reaching and lifting people out of poverty requires knowing who is actually poor.
We have some exciting developments with the Summit agenda to share with everyone. Responding to intense demand for more sessions, we have decided to extend the days of the 18th Microcredit Summit at no extra charge!
The new dates will be Monday, March 14th to Thursday, March 17th, so please be sure to plan your travel dates to be in attendance for the Welcome Ceremony, which will now take place in the morning of March 14th. We apologize for any inconvenience this may cause you, but we hope the program will make it worth your while.
Beth Rhyne’s recent review of the Davos report “Guidance on the application of the core principles for effective banking supervision to the regulation and supervision of institutions relevant to financial inclusion” articulately and clearly present some of the chief benefits of the Davos meeting as well as outline some of the important work that still largely remains in context of framing regulations to support achieving full financial inclusion.
The Campaign, like the Center for Financial Inclusion, has a mission that focuses on ensuring that as financial inclusion strategies are developed become the prime means of moving forward the global agenda to end poverty, that these strategies are sure to include those who are among the hardest to reach populations. This will take a mix of new and innovative programs as well as, as Beth Rightly phrased it, a reinvention of how regulatory frameworks facilitate those programs.
At the 18th Microcredit Summit, the Campaign is organizing, in partnership with the Arab Monetary Fund (AMF) and the Arab Gulf Fund for Development (AGFUND), a special meeting of Governors of central banks throughout the Arab region to discuss recent progress in achieving this redefined shape and meeting their financial inclusion mandates. With participation from key stakeholders like GIZ, CGAP, and others, we will be facilitating a deep discussion on the importance of many of the key issues that Beth has raised. Learn more about this side event, called “Implementing National Financial Inclusion Mandates.”
We encourage you to read her assessment on where Davos has brought the regulatory sector and what roads and challenges lie ahead for it. Furthermore, if the topic really grabs you, the Davos report is open for public comment until March 31, 2016.
Rodger Voorhies, director of financial services for the poor at the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation in the United States, talked to Larry Reed, director of the Microcredit Summit Campaign, for the 2013 State of the Campaign Report.
Larry Reed: What opportunities do you see for digital transactions making a difference in the lives of the very poor?
Rodger Voorhies: Like most of us, poor people live their lives through a lot of different kinds of financial connections, and payments are really the connective tissue that hold those financial transactions together. Unless we can figure out ways to help poor people transact in a way that is profitable for them and profitable for providers, we’re really not going to see large-scale financial inclusion take place.
Now, one of the most exciting things that’s going on for us is the ability of mobile money to reach down into really poor households, and so right now in a country like Tanzania 47 percent of households have a mobile money user. An exciting bit of that is not so much, okay, there’s one person in the household sending money to friends, but it might open up all kinds of innovations that before were previously unavailable.
So, let’s think about savings, because we know savings have a big impact on poor people. Well, it’s really hard to save, and poor people have to take a lot of self-control and we expect a lot of self-discipline out of them if they’re going to be able to save. If I can actually begin to transact digitally and I had defaulted into commitments accounts and savings accounts for school fees or whatever the mental maps are that work for me, I think we can see large scale inclusion that actually has a big development impact. And we know that the empirical evidence around these pieces work, so we know commitment accounts work, but poor people just don’t have a way to get those commitment accounts.