Webinar recap: Is it too late for microfinance to be pro poor?

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On April 21st, the Microcredit Summit Campaign co-hosted with Uplift a webinar discussion focusing on the promise that graduation holds for sustainably reaching the ultra-poor. Our featured speakers were Debasish Ray Chaudhuri, CEO of Bandhan Konnagar in India, Rachel Proefke, a research associate with BRAC Uganda, Mark Daniels, the Philippines director for Opportunity International, and Allison Duncan, CEO of Amplifier Strategies and founder of Uplift. Anne Hastings, a global advocate with Uplift, moderated the webinar.

The conversation looked closely at the experiences that each of the three practitioners on the panel have had in implementing the program as well as the global advocacy message supporting the graduation approach being delivered by Uplift and its allies.

We hope you will get engaged with this promising avenue for reaching those living in ultra-poverty and be inspired by the potential it holds for helping microfinance institutions to reconnect to their original purpose. Some final thoughts from speakers on the webinar follow.

Anne Hastings noted,

We weren’t really able to address in depth how a pro-poor MFI, struggling for sustainability in a competitive, regulated environment can attain sustainability while operating the graduation program. In the models we saw, the institution was either an NGO or a regulated MFI that had formed a non-profit foundation for the graduation program and perhaps the delivery of other non-financial services. We shouldn’t be surprised or embarrassed that donor funding may still be needed, but partnerships with government safety net programs and other NGOs can also be very helpful in paying for the program. As the 6 RCTs funded by the Ford Foundation concluded, “Although more can be learned about how to optimize the design and implementation of the program, we establish that a multifaceted approach to increasing income and well-being for the ultra-poor is sustainable and cost-effective.” (Science Magazine, 15 May 2015, Vol 348 Issue 6236, p. 772.)

Rachel Profke added,

I think the point that I would stress, which we begun to address in the discussion, is the importance of finding the right partner for the implementation of components that an MFI does not have the core capacity to implement. While BRAC is able to leverage both microfinance and additional programming in the areas that we operate all programs, this is not always the case for us or other MFIs that will be interested in implementing graduation programming. Often, MFIs can provide the scale in identifying communities and in providing financial services, but linkages with implementing partners providing similar programming is fundamental to ensuring best practices in programming — as Mark highlighted. However, aside from NGO implementers, governments are often running existing programming that can be leveraged not only in identifying beneficiaries through such channels as social protection programming but also in providing some components through existing service provision, in terms of health or extension services. We find it helpful to look at what is already at place — and at scale — through government programs is useful, as we have done in Tanzania. This is also useful as we think about scaling because, apart from donor buy-in, governments offer larger potential through larger budgets and capacity.

Thank you to all panelists for contributing to this important conversation about the importance of the graduation approach. We also wish to thank all participants who submitted thought-provoking questions and comments to help make the session a very lively and interactive discussion!

Couldn’t join us? Watch the session recording!

Oradian’s innovative cloud system in West Africa empowers the microfinance community

Oradian customers

Oradian customers

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>>Authored by Vedrana Legovic, marketing and communications officer of Oradian

Vedrana Legovic_contributor

Vedrana Legovic

Last month, we travelled to Abu Dhabi for the 18th Microcredit Summit, which hosted a number of microfinance and financial inclusion experts from around the world. The summit explored new and effective ways in advancing financial inclusion and featured successes in Africa and the Middle East. One of those success stories is certainly that of Oradian, and we are honoured that the Microcredit Summit Campaign recognised the impact of our work in West Africa. By using our latest cloud-based technology, services, and domain expertise in that region, we increase efficiency and effectiveness of microfinance institutions (MFIs).

We had the opportunity to attend inspiring plenary and breakout sessions and be a part of the arena where so many great ideas were shared. Oradian’s co-founder and managing director, Antonio Separovic, spoke at the “Innovative Products and Services for Financial Inclusion” panel. Oradian creates technology (SaaS software) for MFIs. With our technology, we remove complexity, empower our users, and enable their growth because most of them still use pen and paper.

Antonio discussed Oradian’s experience in enabling ‪‎ MFIs to advance financial inclusion by using our innovative technology. More specifically, he shared our story about empowering microfinance communities in some of the most remote rural areas in Nigeria, our core market, where we have had impressive results with local MFIs in applying our multi-award winning software, Instafin, to their operations.‬‬‬‬‬‬‬

Oradian’s Core Microfinance System Instafin awarded to one lucky MFI

Antonio handing the Oradian winner certificate to the representative of Vicoba Village Community Bank from Tanzania

Antonio Separaovic, managing director of Oradian, hands the Oradian winner certificate to the representative of Vicoba Village Community Bank from Tanzania

We had the privilege of partnering with the 18th Microcredit Summit. On the second day of the summit, we held a raffle in which one lucky MFI, Vicoba Village Community Bank from Tanzania, won a 9-month pilot to use our Core Microfinance System – Instafin along with all the training and support.

As Instafin is very easy to implement, we are happy to be able to offer such pilots and we look forward to awarding a similar prize next year. Commenting on the Summit, Antonio Separovic, managing director at Oradian said:

Attending the 18th Microcredit Summit was truly a rewarding experience. We received excellent feedback from attendees and were delighted to join other participants and delegates in so many motivating discussions that highlighted the importance of innovation in financial inclusion. We’re grateful for many opportunities that arose from an inspiring networking environment. I would say the Oradian team is now even more excited to continue working on our mission — to empower the delivery of financial services to the underserved and unbanked. Needless to say, we are already looking forward to the next year’s event.

How we empower MFIs with Instafin

Microfinance institutions in Africa offer both loans and savings, but they operate in outdated technical environments. This creates a struggle with day-to-day operations and, more often than not, causes confusion and uncertainty.

This is where Oradian steps in. Our SaaS Instafin is changing the way MFIs in developing markets operate, enabling them to serve the most rural clients affordably and efficiently. Specifically designed for financial institutions servicing the base of the socio-economic pyramid, Instafin is the world’s first true core microfinance platform, designed by experienced practitioners.

Oradian’s role in women’s empowerment

This year’s summit discussions highlighted once again that microfinance incentives provide much needed access to financial resources that are crucial to the people at the bottom of the socio-economic pyramid, among whom women comprise the majority. Women have earned the reputation of being more financially responsible regarding investment, savings, and paying back loans in time. This makes them key drivers for sustainable development and a prime focus of microfinance institutions.

Our customer using Instafin

An Oradian customer using Instafin

By using our technology, the process of delivering microfinance services is more affordable and efficient for MFIs. Instafin is easy to implement and use, which results in savings in costs and time. Having in mind that over 90 percent of Oradian’s end clients are women, it is necessary to recognise the role we play in enabling women to access financial services.

Where is Oradian in advancing financial inclusion in West Africa

We are honoured to have had the opportunity to attend so many inspiring speeches at the Summit and engage in thoughtful discussions, with focus on financial inclusion strategies.

While it is a far stretch to claim that financial inclusion guarantees to bring people out of poverty, having access to financial services is the first step and microfinance institutions are at the forefront of providing these services. Without a doubt financial services help individuals to reach their economic potential, invest in opportunities, and start small businesses or expand them.

In order to advance the financial inclusion efforts, we need to develop an open ecosystem for financial inclusion. Our philosophy is that technology should support a platform that nurtures both our customers as well as a vibrant third party marketplace of solution providers. The Oradian Ecosystem is how we grow and drive change for our customers — now and into the future.

We are committed to increasing financial inclusion in West Africa, given the global demand and scalability of Oradian’s products and services, we are also developing regional partnerships and planning roll-out across the rest of Africa. Our goal is to enable MFIs to extend financial services to 100,000,000 underserved families, touching the lives of half a billion people globally.

About Vedrana Legovic

Trained Internet Marketing Specialist, with MA in Marketing Management and background in journalism, Vedrana has been working in the digital media industry for 8 years. She focuses on social media and content marketing. You can connect with her on LinkedIn.

Video Corner | Shazia Abbas on microfinance creating entrepreneurs

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18th Microcredit Summit Video Corner Interview Series

Shazia Abbas, CEO of Micro Options in Pakistan, interviewed by Miranda Beshara, editor of the Arabic Microfinance Gateway.


Shazia Abbas of Micro Options (Pakistan) discusses her organization, 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. Micro Options provides microcredit services for agriculture, livestock, and alternative energy (i.e., solar and bio-gas), combining access to capital with skills training with a focus on women and youth.

Abbas says that the Summit is a great forum and the biggest networking event for the region and globally. On her experience in Abu Dhabi, she appreciates “learning how other people are doing this work differently, and especially the opportunities we can leverage. That was wonderful. Every session is very important, and I was confused which to pick and not to pick,” Abbas adds with a chuckle. “I will definitely take some learning that I can cooperate at my organization so that we can deliver even better.”

Abbas echoes Professor Muhammad Yunus on the role of microfinance, stressing that access to capital and finance should be a fundamental human right. “If you are educated but you don’t have access to employment,” says Abbas, “you can become an entrepreneur. We provide social and economic development opportunity especially to rural areas and women.”

She continues, “We believe microcredit is directly linked and can directly impact on poverty, but implementation needs to be strategized properly. Ultimately, provision of capital and using this capital in a way that you make people entrepreneurs and make people stand on their own feet.” She concludes that this is how microfinance can “accelerate” people out of poverty.

Video Corner | Lev Plaves of Kiva on measuring impact

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18th Microcredit Summit Video Corner Interview Series

Lev Plaves, portfolio manager at KIVA in the USA, interviewed by Miranda Beshara, editor of the Arabic Microfinance Gateway.


Lev Plaves of KIVA talks with Miranda Beshara, editor of the Arabic Microfinance Gateway, about what he was most excited to learn about at the 18th Microcredit Summit. “What we are most excited about is how much discussion there was at the Summit about how different stakeholders — whether investors or practitioners — are really working to improve how we’re measuring impact,” Plaves says. “That was really great to see, and I am excited to see moving forward how that plays out in terms of people working to really increase how we are quantifying the outcomes we are having as an industry.”

Plaves explains that KIVA’s mission is to connect people through lending to alleviate poverty, mobilizing people on a global level to lend as little as US$ 25 on their crowd-funding platform. KIVA has expanded its reach beyond traditional microfinance institutions, which now account for only half of their partners and thus extending their portfolio outside the microfinance sector.

Answering the question about the role of microfinance to help end poverty, Plaves explains that this has allowed KIVA to “expand the breadth our reach in terms of the number of people and the types of services we’re providing and also the depth and the impact we’re having.”

Sohelia Haque: MFIs better serve the poor than traditional banks

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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.”

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Muhammad Yunus: A new economic theory of selflessness

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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.

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Muhammad Zubair Mughal: Islamic microfinance is for everyone

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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.

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Bdour Alhyari: Enabling the poor to participate in development

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18th Microcredit Summit Video Corner Interview Series

Bdour Alhyari, business development manager for Microfund for Women in Jordan, interviewed by Miranda Beshara, editor of the Arabic Microfinance Gateway.


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.”

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Research on Ecuador’s digital platform to be featured at 18th Microcredit Summit

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The Microcredit Summit Campaign, as part of its 6 Pathways, is helping to highlight ways that digital platforms are helping to expand financial inclusion, especially for the extreme poor. We are pleased to share with you this Executive Summary of their research.

At the 18th Microcredit Summit this research will be included in the breakout session “The Digital Revolution and Financial Inclusion.” We hope to see you there!


>> Authored by Jorge Moncayo and Marcos Reis.

Financial systems have a vital role in national economies. They provide savings, credit, payment, and risk management products to society. In this sense, inclusive financial systems — those with a high share of individuals and firms that use financial services — are especially likely to benefit poor people and other disadvantaged groups. On the contrary, poor people must rely on their limited savings to invest in their education or become entrepreneurs. In addition, small enterprises must rely on their limited earnings to pursue promising growth opportunities (Demirguc-Kunt and Klapper, 2012).

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Grameen Fdn expands our knowledge on poverty measurement

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Photo credit: Grameen Foundation
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.

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microPension Foundation to advance pension and social security inclusion

Micro Pension Foundation co-hosts a financial counselling session at Sullimula Paniya tribal village (India). Photo courtesy of Micro Pension Foundation — Read the press release announcing Micro Pension Fondation’s Campaign Commitment (the link connects to the ESAF press release) — Read their Commitment letter (the link connects to the ESAF letter) —Watch the recording of the E-workshop co-hosted with the Center for Financial Inclusion, Micro Pension Foundation and HelpAge International, (hyperlink https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=gFzTaAlc7To)

microPension Foundation co-hosts a financial counseling session at Sullimula Paniya tribal village (India). Photo courtesy of microPension Foundation
Read the press release announcing microPension Foundation’s Campaign Commitment
Read their Commitment letter
Watch the recording of the E-workshop co-hosted with the Center for Financial Inclusion, Micro Pension Foundation and HelpAge International

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The Microcredit Summit Campaign welcomes microPension Foundation (mPF) as the 58th organization to make a Campaign Commitment. mPF commits to provide an integrated, contributions-led micropension solutions for 25,000 domestic help workers in India and work to further social security inclusion for low-income informal sector workers. With this Commitment, mPF joins a global coalition to help 100 million families lift themselves out of extreme poverty.

The non-profit mPF is a specialized pension and social security inclusion R&D hub established in 2012 through an inception grant from VISA, Inc. mPF develops, field-tests, and mainstreams innovative and scalable technology-led solutions to enable secure, convenient, and affordable access to contributory pension and social security programs by low-income unbanked workers.

microPension Foundation joins our coalition and commits to the following:

  • By encouraging mass-scale civil society action to achieve pension and social security inclusion by motivating P2P action using the first global e-commerce social security platform titled “gift-a-pension.” This web-platform enables middle and upper-middle income households to enroll their domestic help (cooks, drivers, maids, guards) for an integrated pension, insurance, and micropayment solution through the Internet.
    Employers use electronic financial literacy tools (FAQs, animations, films, calculators) to explain pension and social security concepts and product features to their home help. Domestic help who do not have a bank account are provided a bank-issued prepaid card for channeling periodic micropension contributions to regulated pension funds and life insurers.
    By December 2016, the microPension Foundation will aim to achieve coverage of 25,000 domestic help employed by middle and upper-middle income households in India. The microPension Foundation will also identify and work with like-minded institutions in other developing countries to implement the Gift-a-Pension platform in other countries.
  • The microPension Foundation will collaborate with a specialized social security solutions enterprise to launch a new social security gateway named microPension-in-a-Box (mPIB). This gateway will enable governments, regulators, multilateral and bilateral aid agencies, MFIs, cooperatives, NGOs, and social enterprises more generally to offer an integrated social security program based on portable, individual pension and insurance accounts to their citizens, clients, or beneficiaries.
    With the Microcredit Summit Campaign, the microPension Foundation and the new solutions enterprise will launch a global road-show in mid-2016 to show-case the mPIB solution to Campaign partners and to build a global partnership-led implementation network.

gift a pension photo_275x338mPF will encourage, enable, and assist Campaign partners and other stakeholders to launch integrated, contributions-based micropension and microinsurance programs for low income excluded individuals. With this strategy, mPF seeks to multiply the impact of the social security inclusion effort and create a global micro-social security marketplace which will enable low-income, informal sector workers to achieve a secure and dignified old age through thrift and self-help.

Executive Director of Micro Pension Foundation, Parul Khanna, explains why they are committing with the Microcredit Summit Campaign:

“We are extremely excited about the huge potential global impact of the Microcredit Summit Campaign and are delighted to be a partner in this process. The mPF team is committed to work closely with the Campaign and fellow partners in the coming years to empower and enable low-income excluded women to achieve a financially secure and dignified old age.”

Read the Commitment Letter from Micro Pension Foundation.

The Microcredit Summit Campaign looks forward to welcoming our newest partners to the global coalition and sharing their progress towards the Commitment achievement at the 18th Microcredit Summit. The Campaign’s 100 Million Project is building a movement among financial service stakeholders committed to helping to end extreme poverty through: public statements of commitment to action, expanding practices to reliably measure movement out of extreme poverty, and promoting innovations and best practices to accelerate movement out of poverty.


We invite you to join microPension Foundation and…

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Join the movement to help 100 million families lift themselves out of extreme poverty:

5 lessons on expanding financial inclusion and usage

Source

Source: The 2015 Brookings Financial and Digital Inclusion Project Report: Measuring Progress on Financial Access and Usage.

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>>Authored by Mbaye Niane, 100 Million Project intern

The Center for Technology Innovation (CTI) at the Brookings Institute recently published the 2015 Brookings Financial and Digital Inclusion Project (FDIP) Report and Scorecard. It evaluates access to and usage of affordable financial services across 21 different countries in Africa, Asia, and Latin America.

These countries are geographically, economically, and politically very diverse, but many of their citizens share a common experience of being excluded from formal financial services. Governments from these 21 countries [1] have made a commitment to achieve financial inclusion by improving access to and usage of appropriate, affordable, and accessible financial services. At the Microcredit Summit Campaign, we are mobilizing commitments from private sector actors as well as governments to expand access to and usage of just such high quality financial — as well as non-financial — services.

We know many organizations in the microfinance and financial inclusion sectors affirm a vision of ending poverty. The aim of this coalition is to tie visions to actions and action to achievement. For example, the Technical Secretariat for Disabilities (Secretaría Técnica de Discapacidades) of the Vice-What is a Commitment + Actions to end extreme povertypresidency of the Republic of Ecuador has committed to support 500 entrepreneurial projects led by persons with disabilities through the Productive & Financial Inclusion Network and to implement of a set of poverty measurement indicators that will allow the Technical Secretariat to assess progress in meeting its objectives in serving persons with disabilities.

Brookings’ Financial and Digital Inclusion Project (FDIP) measures the progress achieved in those 21 countries and seeks to answer important questions related to global financial inclusion efforts [2], questions that we are interested to know the answer to as well.

  1. Do country commitments make a difference in progress toward financial inclusion?
  2. To what extent do mobile and other digital technologies advance financial inclusion?
  3. What legal, policy, and regulatory approaches promote financial inclusion?

The FDIP Scorecard assesses the accessibility and usage of financial services in each country using 33 indicators across four dimensions: country commitment, mobile capacity, regulatory environment, and adoption of traditional and digital financial services. This scorecard will help non-governmental organizations, policy makers, private sector representatives, and others examine the best practices for facilitating and measuring financial inclusion.

The FDIP reports that Kenya, South Africa, and Brazil lead the 21 countries overall on financial inclusion. Rwanda and Uganda follow, tied at fourth place. These high-performing countries took the critical steps towards financial inclusion such as policy and regulatory changes. Creating an accessible and affordable path for poor families to use digital technology is a strategic way to get them out of poverty. The FDIP report and scorecard give us valuable information about financial inclusion. It is valuable to show that countries making commitments, solving regulatory issues, and creating an accessible and affordable path for poor families to use digital financial services (i.e., mobile money and e-wallets) is a strategic way to get them out of poverty.

Achieving financial inclusion: Five critical conclusions

The 2015 FDIP Report can be summarized with the following five critical conclusions on how to best expand financial inclusion across the world.

[ONE] Country commitments are vital to reach financial inclusion.

They facilitate knowledge-sharing and engagement among groups and assure that national financial inclusion strategies include measurable targets and a strong coordination across government agencies with the public and private sectors. Country commitments allow the creation of developing surveys that diagnose the status of financial inclusion, a critical step to develop a targeted strategy and assessing the success of future inclusion initiatives.

[TWO] Digital financial services are important for accelerating financial inclusion.

Governments and the private sector will need to increase investments in digital communication and payments infrastructure and ensure services are affordable. The use of digital financial services has grown significantly in recent years among many people who have little or no previous experience with formal financial services. Many households have more than one mobile phone, smartphone or tablet.

We believe that mobile money linked with agent networks in low-income communities is a key financial inclusion strategy — one of our six “pathways” — to help end extreme poverty. According to the Groupe Speciale Mobile Association (GSMA) in 2015 the number of cellular connections through mobile phones, smartphones and tablets increased to more than 7.5 billion and is expected to increase to over 9 billion by 2020. Additionally, smartphone penetration will allow non-bank institutions to expand access to more user friendly interfaces such as mobile financial services. However, for several reasons, feature (or “dumb”) phones will remain the preferred option in many developing community contexts (i.e., poor villages in Africa) for a while still.

[THREE] Geography generally matters less than policy, legal, and regulatory changes.

With this said, there are some regional trends in terms of financial services provision, however. Regulatory and policy changes will likely accelerate financial inclusion outcomes, but in order to promote digital financial services — which, as we explain above, is important for accelerating financial inclusion — countries need a robust digital ecosystem that promotes innovation.

[FOUR] There are many important actors with major roles and they need to coordinate closely.

Central banks, ministries of finance and communication, regulated banks and non-bank financial providers, and mobile network operators each have a major role in achieving financial inclusion. They should closely coordinate with respect to advances in policy, regulation, and technology to ensure a vibrant and inclusive financial ecosystem.

The Microcredit Summit Campaign organized a Field Learning Program last year for ministers and directors of social protection programs in Africa who were interested to learn how to replicate and scale up important, accessible, and affordable financial services to the extreme poor. They observed how flagship programs like Ethiopia’s Productive Safety Net Program are combating extreme poverty pairing financial services with social protection programs. In Mexico, they examined how the government and regulatory authorities coordinate with financial entities and technology companies to deliver a conditional cash transfer (CCT) program. The national development bank, BANSEFI, plays an integral role as a facilitator of cash transfers and an accounting hub for the social protection program.

[FIVE] Tackle the gender gap and address diverse cultural contexts with respect to financial services.

Solving these two problems will help achieve global financial inclusion. For example, formal financial service providers encounter mistrust and a lack of awareness. Public and private sector leaders need to educate the public about these services and mobilize their efforts to improve the efficiency and reliability of communication networks.

The FDIP Scorecard

The FDIP Scorecard provides us an overall ranking for each country on the rate of financial inclusion, a country’s commitment, the mobile capacity, the regulatory environment, and adoption of traditional and digital financial services.

The FDIP Report and Scorecard are instructive to us as we pursue our advocacy on uptake of the six pathways (mobile money, integrated health and microfinance). The FDIP report and scorecard hold valuable information that can provide positive guidance to the design and delivery of financial inclusion interventions. This report strengthens the growing body of evidence demonstrating effective ways of reaching the hardest to reach and poorest individuals with programs that support their sustained progress out of poverty.

The scorecard offers an easy-to-understand progress report on financial inclusion commitments. How can we assess, in the future, progress made on Campaign Commitments?

Here is an example of one of the 21 scorecards in the report:

We hope this report provides strength to the growing body of evidence demonstrating effective ways of reaching the hardest to reach and poorest individuals with programs that support their sustained progress out of poverty.


Footnote

[1] The 21 countries are Afghanistan, Bangladesh, Brazil, Chile, Colombia, Ethiopia, India, Indonesia, Kenya, Malawi, Mexico, Nigeria, Pakistan, Peru, the Philippines, Rwanda, South Africa, Tanzania, Turkey, Uganda, and Zambia.

[2] John D. Villasenor,West, Darrell M., and Lewis, Robin J. The 2015 Brookings Financial And Digital Inclusion Project Report. Pg.3: http://www.brookings.edu/~/media/Research/Files/Reports/2015/08/financial-digital-inclusion-2015-villasenor-west-lewis/fdip2015.pdf?la=en


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Better health for every woman and every child in the Philippines

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The maternal mortality rate in the Philippines is among the highest in Southeast Asia. To help improve maternal health in the Philippines, three development institutions have come together to implement the Healthy Mothers, Healthy Babies: Kalinga kay Inay Project. Freedom from Hunger and the Microcredit Summit Campaign are partnering with CARD Mutually Reinforcing Institutions (CARD MRI) to implement an 18-month project to provide access to health education and healthcare, build sustainability of such services, and document evidence of improved lives. The project is supported by an educational grant from Johnson & Johnson.

More than 800,000 women have received vital information to ensure healthy pregnancies, and thousands more will. At community health fairs like you see in the short video above, thousands of women have received free OB/GYN consultations, have signed up for the national health insurance, PhilHealth, and have received free prenatal vitamins. We’re reaching for better health for every woman and every child. Join us.

Learn more

Insufficient and greatly uneven progress on the maternal health MDG

Millennium Development Goals: 2015 Progress Chart
Published articles to date: Introduction | MDG 1 | MDG 2 | MDG 3 | MDG 4

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The United Nations recently issued The Millennium Development Goals Report, 2015, the latest assessment of progress towards the eight MDGs. In short, they have had mixed results. This article is part of a blog series reflecting on the MDGs and the U.N. report. These are produced in partnership with our colleagues at RESULTS, a grassroots advocacy organization. They are lobbying for bipartisan legislation in the Senate that can impact the lives of mothers and children worldwide. (See the Fact Sheet.)


>>Authored by Marion Cosquer and Sabina Rogers

MDG 5: Improve maternal health

Target 5.A: Reduce by three quarters, between 1990 and 2015, the maternal mortality ratio

graph_MDG5

Click to enlarge. Source: The Millennium Development Goals Report, 2015

In 1990, 380 pregnant women were dying for every 100,000 live births. As of 2013, the global maternal mortality ratio has decreased by 45 percent to 210 women per 100,000 live births. The highest gains were seen in South and Southeast Asia with a 64 percent and 57 percent reduction, respectively. Developing regions overall achieved a 46 percent reduction. Maternal survival has been aided by a one-third increase in childbirth attendance by skilled health personnel. Thus, the news in the U.N. Millennium Development Goals Report for MDG 5 is promising.

Nonetheless, progress towards improving maternal health so far falls far short of the targets set under MDG 5 and has lagged far behind the other MDGs. Additionally, global figures tend to mask regional inequalities. For example, there were 510 maternal deaths per 100,000 live births in sub-Saharan Africa compared to 190 in South Asia and 140 in Southeast Asia.

Progress in raising the proportion of births delivered with skilled personnel has been modest over the last 15 years, reflecting the lack of universal access to care. Indeed, one in four babies still being delivered without skilled personnel and wide disparities are found among regions. For example, there is a 52 percent spread between the largest rural/urban disparity across regions:

  • In Central Africa, 32 percent of births were attended by skilled personnel compared to 84 percent in urban areas.
  • In East Asia, there is no difference between urban and rural areas.

Sub-Saharan Africa and South Asia pull down the developing region average. Overall, 56 percent of births in rural areas are attended by skilled health personnel compared to 87 percent of births in urban areas.

From The Millennium Development Goals Report, 2015

Click to enlarge. Source: The Millennium Development Goals Report, 2015

Target 5.B: Achieve, by 2015, universal access to reproductive health
After 25 years of slow progress, only half of pregnant women in developing regions receive the minimum of four antenatal care visits recommended by the World Health Organization. Once more, coverage levels in sub-Saharan Africa and South Asia trail the other regions. Sub-Saharan Africa has barely increased from 47 percent to 49 percent of pregnant women; South Asia has the lowest coverage at 36 percent (though it increased from 23 percent). Moreover, despite having doubled contraceptive use [1] in sub-Saharan Africa from 13 to 28 percent, sub-Saharan Africa still trails all other regions.

From The Millennium Development Goals Report, 2015

Click to enlarge. Source: The Millennium Development Goals Report, 2015

Proven health-care interventions can prevent or manage the complications that cause maternal deaths, such as hemorrhage, infections, and high blood pressure. These complications are concentrated in sub-Saharan Africa and South Asia, accounting for 86 percent of all deaths worldwide in 2013. Use of contraceptives also contributes to maternal health by reducing unintended pregnancies, unsafe abortions, and maternal deaths.

The report tells us that contraceptive use has risen in all regions and 90 percent of users were using effective contraceptive methods. However, the unmet need is still high (24-25 percent) in sub-Saharan Africa and Oceana. Other developing regions hover around 11-14 percent unmet need, and the overall use in those regions is significantly higher than in sub-Saharan Africa and Oceana.

The adolescent birth rate shows a mixed story. While the global rate for developing regions has fallen by half (from 34 to 17 births per 1000 girls), it hides poor progress in Africa and Latin America and the Caribbean. Indeed, in three regions (Southeast Asia, the Caucasus and Central Asia, and North Africa), some of the gains in the adolescent birth rate from 2000 reversed in 2015. Moreover, progress in East Asia was stagnant over the last 15 years.

The report calls for urgently needed intensified efforts to delay childbearing and prevent unintended pregnancies among adolescents. By increasing opportunities to go to school and for paid employment, we would see an overall improved maternal and child health as well as reduced poverty, greater gender equality, and women’s empowerment.

Maternal health in the post-2015 development agenda

The new Global Goals for Sustainable Development, which are set to be approved at the Sustainable Development Summit September 25 to 27, encompasses a broader, more ambitious and inclusive health goal. Goal 3 seeks to “Ensure healthy lives and promote well-being for all at all ages.” Indeed, it seeks to reduce the global mortality ratio to fewer than 70 deaths per 100,000 live births. Under Goal 3, countries will agree to ensure, by 2030, universal access to sexual and reproductive healthcare services, including for family planning, information and education, and the integration of reproductive health into national strategies and programs — for which the microfinance sector can be a key partner.

The report concludes on the inequalities in data availability on maternal health among and within regions. The lack of data is a key factor contributing to the unfinished MDG agenda, hampering efforts to establish priorities on national, regional, and global health. In the post-2015 period, it is imperative to have better and more data, especially concerning registration of births and deaths, in order to set adequate policy priorities, target resources more efficiently, and measure improvements.

In order to build on the successes of the MDGs and achieve Goal 3 of the SDGs, the 18th Microcredit Summit will focus on integrated health and microfinance as one of the six pathways out of poverty. Empowerment of women — which can help reduce maternal mortality more quickly and efficiently — will also be an important theme.


Footnote

[1] “Contraceptive use” is defined concerning women aged 15-49, married or in union, who are using any method of contraception

Post MDG-4: Integrating health services to reduce child mortality

Millennium Development Goals: 2015 Progress Chart
Published articles to date: Introduction | MDG 1 | MDG 2 | MDG 3

Lea en español *** Lisez en français


The United Nations recently issued The Millennium Development Goals Report, 2015, the latest assessment of progress towards the eight MDGs. In short, they have had mixed results. This article is part of a blog series reflecting on the MDGs and the U.N. report. These are produced in partnership with our colleagues at RESULTS.


>>Authored by Carley Tucker and Sabina Rogers

MDG 4: Reduce child mortality

Target 4.A: Reduce by two-thirds, between 1990 and 2015, the under-five mortality rate

From The Millennium Development Goals Report, 2015

From The Millennium Development Goals Report, 2015

The numbers appear heartening. According to the latest assessment on the Millennium Development Goals (MDGs), deaths of infants and children under five have greatly reduced. The under-five mortality rate has declined by more than half, from 90 to 43 deaths per 1000 births. Moreover, the annual rate of reduction in child deaths has more than doubled since 1990, and the rate has accelerated the most in Africa.

We learn that 4 out of every 5 of children have received at least one dose of the measles vaccine, preventing 15.6 million deaths between 2000 and 2013. In all, some 48 million children under five are alive today because of smart investments and increasing access to cost-effective health programs over the last 15 years.

This is good news for children around the world; however, underlying these advances is news that the achievements are not equitably distributed regionally, between rural and urban areas, nor socioeconomically.

Across all regions, progress toward MDG 4 has been “fair” to “excellent.” Furthest from reaching the target, though, are those living in sub-Saharan Africa and South Asia. While sub-Saharan Africa has had the largest decline in child mortality rates, it still experiences half of all child deaths in the world. Of the 10 countries with the highest number of under-five deaths, 5 are in Africa: Nigeria (#2 at 750,000), DR Congo (#4 at 305,000), Ethiopia (#5 at 184,000), Angola (#7 at 169,000), and Tanzania (#10 at 98,000). See the full list in this infographic from Humanosphere.

Children living in rural areas are 1.7 times more likely to die than those living in urban populations. Child mortality is 1.9 times as prevalent among poor households as among wealthy. Those whose mothers lack education are 2.8 times more likely to die than if their mothers had reached the secondary or higher level. So, of the 16,000 children under five who die each day — mostly due to preventable causes such as pneumonia, diarrhea, and malaria — they are likely to be from poor, rural, and uneducated households.

Have we really made substantial progress achieving MDG 4 when young kids in rural and poor communities continue to be the ones more likely to die before their fifth birthday? Allowing this population to fall behind will only exacerbate the vicious cycle of poverty. In order to make permanent advances in reducing early deaths, global development actors need to narrow in on rural and impoverished areas, especially in sub-Saharan Africa and South Asia.

Where do we go from here?

Recognizing the need for a renewed effort towards improving health of the poorest households, the Microcredit Summit Campaign has identified integration of health and microfinance programming as one of its six pathways strategies key to ending extreme poverty. Poverty is both a factor contributing to and consequence of illness and disease, so it is not enough for clients to have access to financial services. The microfinance sector must look for ways to integrate healthcare to their microfinance services. Microfinance institutions (MFIs) can provide health services directly or through linkages with healthcare programs.

Campaign believes that microfinance services provide an optimal place for healthcare. Many MFIs are reaching very rural communities — to say nothing of savings groups, which are primarily a rural financial tool. MFIs have developed trust relationships with families; they meet regularly with clients and can, therefore, pass along information like how to care for their children. In addition, since many MFIs serve regions in Africa and South Asia where child mortality rates are the highest, a strong focus on healthcare will allow these organizations to directly combat this issue in the most afflicted regions.

Microfinance clients must also have access to good healthcare in order to run their businesses, and a healthy lifestyle begins at birth. In the “Healthy Mothers, Healthy Babies: Kalinga kay Inay” project, microfinance clients are learning simple but important lessons like the food and nutritional supplements that pregnant and young women need and the importance of giving birth in a health facility. They are attending community health fairs organized by CARD MRI and partners, receiving free gynecological exams, urinalysis, and vitamins and supplements to improve their chances of delivering a healthy baby.

70 percent of maternal and child deaths now concentrated in just 16 countries, health and non-health investments such as sanitation, education, infrastructure and gender equality can potentially double the impact on lives saved.

70 percent of maternal and child deaths are now concentrated in just 16 countries. Investments in sanitation, education, infrastructure, and gender equality can potentially double the impact on lives saved. Go to the Newborn Survival Map to learn more.

Integrating health and microfinance services will also support the efforts of the new Global Goals for Sustainable Development, which are set to be approved at the Sustainable Development Summit September 25 to 27. The ambitious Goal 3 (“Good health and well-being”) includes ending preventable deaths of newborns and children under 5 years of age by reducing child mortality to 20 or fewer deaths per 1000 births by 2030. It also seeks to reduce by one third premature mortality from non-communicable diseases through prevention, treatment, and promotion of mental health and well being.

There also efforts underway in the United States to maximize future investments by US Agency for International Development (USAID). To reach the goal of ending preventable child and maternal deaths by 2035, USAID has set bold, intermediate goals of saving 15 million child lives and 600,000 women’s lives by 2020. RESULTS, a grassroots advocacy organization, is lobbying for bipartisan legislation that will provide strong congressional oversight and ensure that “returns [are] measured in lives saved and healthy, prosperous communities.” (See the Fact Sheet.)

“We now have the chance to end these needless deaths in our lifetime,” said Joanne Carter, executive director of RESULTS and RESULTS Educational Fund (our parent organization). “The science shows we have the tools. That means in 2035 a child born in the poorest setting could have the same chance of reaching her fifth birthday as a child born in the richest.”