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> Posted by Philip M. Brown and Deborah Drake, Citi Microfinance and CFI

The Investing in Inclusive Finance program at the Center for Financial Inclusion at Accion explores the practices of investors in inclusive finance. Across areas including risk, governance, stakeholder alignment, and fund management, this blog series highlights what’s being done to help the industry better utilize private capital to develop financial institutions that incorporate social aims.

What will this year’s Microfinance Banana Skins Survey top message be? We are eagerly awaiting the responses to the recently launched 2014 Microfinance Banana Skins Survey from practitioners, investors, regulators, and other industry stakeholders around the world. These responses will provide insights into the greatest perceived risks facing the sector over the next few years and reveal the risks to be avoided on the path ahead.

The titles of the past four Microfinance Banana Skins surveys paint the picture of continuous sector evolution since the first publication in 2008. If previous titles are any indication, the new headline will set the tone and raise a debate around key risk issues.

Entitled “Risk in a Booming Industry“, the 2008 report highlighted concerns of microfinance institutions about “how to scale” in a healthy way. With changed economic realities, the external environment became the area of focus with “Confronting Crisis and Change” in 2009, and “Losing Its Fairy Dust” in 2011. The most recent survey in 2012, “Staying Relevant,” highlighted the changed setting for microfinance brought on by new entrants and new technologies. The titles and changing risk rankings reflect the increasing integration of microfinance into the broader financial ecosystem, and the challenges that microfinance clients and service providers encounter as the sector evolves.

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> Posted by Jeffrey Riecke, Communications Assistant, CFI

Peru ranks as the developing country with the best environment for microfinance, followed by Bolivia, Pakistan, the Philippines, and Kenya, in that order. Latin America and the Caribbean is ranked as the best region in the world for microfinance, followed by Sub-Saharan Africa, Asia, Eastern Europe and Central Asia, and lastly the Middle East and North Africa. Globally, the microfinance industry is improving, fueled largely by an increase in credit bureaus, improving client protection, and the spread of regulatory frameworks for mobile banking.

These are a few of the big takeaways from the Global Microscope on the Microfinance Business Environment 2013, which was launched yesterday in Guadalajara at the IDB’s 2013 Foromic conference. Now in its seventh year, the Global Microscope annual series examines the environment for microfinance – and increasingly financial inclusion – by considering the national regulatory environment and the corresponding institutional framework.

Originally developed by the Economist Intelligence Unit in collaboration with the Multilateral Investment Fund and CAF, this year’s study is also sponsored by Citi Microfinance and CFI. This year’s report scores 55 countries, and in general, the global picture is promising. Since last year, 30 countries improved their scores, 19 fell back, and the scores of six countries remained the same. The majority of improvements this year came from advancements in institutional frameworks. The scores for regulatory framework and practices mostly declined.

As a region, Latin America and the Caribbean countries claimed half the slots in the global top ten, with Peru maintaining its previous ranking as the top country in part through improvements in regulation for mobile banking. Unlike the rising score for Peru, Bolivia’s score fell, due to restrictive new legislation, although not far enough to dislodge Bolivia from its number 2 ranking.

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The views and opinions expressed on this blog, except where otherwise noted, are those of the authors and guest bloggers and do not necessarily reflect the views of the Center for Financial Inclusion or its affiliates.