> Posted by the Smart Campaign

The Smart Campaign is thrilled to announce that a new milestone for client protection in microfinance has been reached: there are now 50 financial institutions that have been awarded Smart Certification, recognizing their commitment to fair client treatment and responsible practices. In total, these institutions serve roughly 25 million clients.

The threshold was crossed with a handful of recent certifications – Fortis Microfinance Bank and Grooming Centre in Nigeria; Banco ADOPEM in the Dominican Republic; Fundacion Paraguaya in Paraguay; Pro Mujer in Nicaragua; and AgroInvest in Serbia. Each of these institutions worked over a several month process to assess and upgrade their operations to meet every one of the indicators signifying strong consumer protection practices.

Grooming Centre and Fortis Microfinance Bank collectively reach over a half million clients. Founded in 2006, Grooming Centre operates in 22 states in Nigeria with a network of 376 branches. Grooming Centre offers a range of financial services, including savings and credit, small business loans, agricultural loans, and clean energy financing. Fortis Microfinance Bank, along with offering financial services, provides clients with business support in areas including management, marketing, and administration.

Banco ADOPEM is known in the Dominican Republic as “The Women’s Bank”, as 70 percent of their active clients are women. Ninety-four percent of these women are considered to be economically vulnerable. Banco ADOPEM showcased their status as a newly-certified MFI in an ad in El Dia, one of the most-circulated newspapers in the Dominican Republic, as shown in the image at right.

Fundacion Paraguaya fully integrates the client protection principles into its practices, while also pursuing the inclusion of historically marginalized populations. CFI is currently working with Fundacion Paraguaya on the institution’s disability program to serve more people with disabilities, and the institution was instrumental in helping the Center develop a Framework for Disability Inclusion.

Pro Mujer in Nicaragua was Pro Mujer’s first expansion outside of Bolivia. Pro Mujer began Nicaragua operations in the poor neighborhoods around Leon and Chinandega and today serves women across 11 municipalities.

AgroInvest Serbia is an affiliate of VisionFund and began work in Serbia in 2001. It focuses primarily on agricultural lending but also disburses other types of enterprise loans.

The Fundacion Paraguaya, Pro Mujer, and AgroInvest Serbia networks’ (Accion, Pro Mujer, and VisionFund are members of the Microfinance CEO Working Group (MCWG)) participation in the certification program was assisted by the International Finance Corporation in partnership with the MCWG.

The Campaign would like to congratulate all the certified institutions.

For more on the Smart Certification, you may enjoy hearing the CEOs of certified institutions talk about the certification process and its importance for their institutions and the sector in this video: the full version is here, while an abridged (90-second) version is here. And please visit the Smart Campaign at http://www.smartcampaign.org.

Have you read?

My Turn to Speak: Voices of Microfinance Clients in Benin, Pakistan, Peru, and Georgia

Three Cheers for the Smart Campaign’s Certification Summit

Isabelle Barres On the Challenges of Promoting Client Protection, the Thorny Issues of Profits and Pricing, and the Smart Campaign’s Next Steps