On the strength of its success, microfinance wants to avoid becoming a “business”

FINANCIAL SECTOR

The financial sector is interested in consolidation loans which already benefit more than 100 million families.

At the top of the microcredit, opened Sunday, November 12 in Halifax, Canada, Muhammad Yunus was a star. Barely a month after receiving the Nobel Peace Prize, the founding director of Grameen Bank, a flagship microcredit institution in Bangladesh, came to share his prize with 2,300 delegates involved in this vast antipoverty microfinance (IMF).

His worldwide recognition by awarding the Nobel Prize said Yunus, “opens a new era that must be enjoyed with responsibility.”

Noting the progress made since the first summit in 1997, MFIs set ambitious goals for 2015: giving access to credit to 175 million poor families and helping 100 million of them live on more than one dollar per year. day.

At this rate, the director of the microcredit campaign, Sam Daley-Harris, estimates that “500 million people will be out of extreme poverty, almost half of all .” Utopic? Perhaps, but the record of recent years impresses: 113 million families (including 82 million very poor) had benefited from microloans offered by 3 100 MFIs at the end of 2005. Privileged channel: that of loans to women, with a reimbursement rate of more than 90%.

Without being a panacea, microcredit is a powerful tool in the fight against poverty. When she co-founded Pro Mujer in Bolivia in 1990, Lynne Patterson had “no idea of the power of microcredit”.

Today, through integrated microfinance and health-education programs, this MFI has 144,000 clients, 6,900 village banks in five Latin American countries and $ 246 million (€ 192 million) in funding. loans to his credit. “We live, says Ms. Patterson, a social revolution, but the needs are Enorm are.”

DO NOT LOSE YOUR SOUL

President of Freedom from Hunger, the American Christopher Dunford also believes in microcredit as a factor of development, with “a very positive impact on poverty but also on nutrition, health and education”.

Nevertheless, the microcredit did not fulfill all its promises. Its supporters are aware of the need to improve the geographical reach of MFIs, to leave cities to reach the countryside. Alex Counts, president of the Grameen Foundation, said it loudly: “To achieve our goals, we need an aggressive strategy in the next two years, targeting in particular China, North India, Pakistan, Latin America, Mexico, sub-Saharan Africa and the rural areas of the better-covered countries. ”

To achieve this, we need to better manage the exponential growth of microfinance. How to manage without losing your soul and get carried away by the wave of “marketing”?

MFIs know that they must improve their efficiency, control their costs, better train their staff, accelerate the introduction of new technologies, offer new services (savings, housing, insurance, etc.). To those who would be tempted to deviate from the right path, Mr. Yunus reminds us that “microfinance must remain a social worker and not aim at maximizing profits”.

While the Nobel Prize criticized the World Bank’s lack of interest in microcredit – none of its leaders were in Halifax – the role of traditional banks was evoked. For MFIs, they have their place, if they create entities with social objectives, with “reasonable” interest rates. In Halifax, several banks have defended their views against those who criticize the “commercialization of microfinance “.

The pioneering Deutsche Bank wants to collaborate with local institutions. ING, Citigroup or BancoEstado (Chile) want to put their experience in the service of “greater access to banking services for the poor”. Their competition does not worry MFIs. On the other hand, they fear that the arrival of other players – supermarkets or mobile phone companies – will lead to an unregulated development of microfinance.