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> Posted by Miranda Beshara, Arabic Microfinance Gateway

Alex Silva, Executive Director, Calmeadow

Governance is a business imperative, and investors are willing to pay a premium for effective corporate governance. This was one of the key takeaways from the Middle East and North Africa (MENA) Governance and Strategic Leadership Seminar, held recently in Amman, Jordan. We’ve seen this stated priority of governance in the MENA microfinance market exhibited elsewhere, too. A joint IFC-Sanabel report assessing the top perceived risks facing the microfinance industry in the Arab world uncovered that the market’s stakeholders viewed weak corporate governance structures as one of the more threatening risks out of roughly 30 risk categories. Financial service providers in particular perceive this risk to be rising.

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> Posted by Center Staff

The latest edition of the Financial Inclusion 2020 News Feed, our weekly online magazine sharing the big news in banking the unbanked, is now available. Among the stories in this week’s edition are: the United Nations (U.N.) General Assembly held a side event last week on youth financial inclusion; the Microfinance Gateway spotlighted resilience, for both households and financial institutions, in the realm of financial inclusion; and the Global Banking Alliance for Women (GBA), in collaboration with the Inter-American Development Bank (IDB) and Data2XCARE, released a report on the value of data to women’s financial inclusion. Here are a few more details:

  • The U.N. General Assembly side event focused on the importance of financial inclusion for youth, including youth entrepreneurs, and it was asserted that the energy and dynamism of young people will be integral in achieving the newly adopted 2030 Sustainable Development Goals. Fifty-four percent of youth between 15-24 don’t have a bank account.
  • Resilience, or the ability to anticipate, adapt to, and/or recover from adverse situations, is a key lens for considering financial inclusion. Microfinance Gateway’s spotlight shares industry work on resilience from Freedom from Hunger, ILO, IMF, Making Finance Work for Africa, Microinsurance Network, and MicroSave.
  • GBA, IDB, and Data2XCARE’s new report, based on interviews with over 50 financial inclusion stakeholders, makes the case for sex-disaggregated data – how this data could inform better policies and private sector action – and discusses the challenges to its collection and use.

For more information on these and other stories, read the latest issue of the FI2020 News Feed here, and make sure to subscribe to the weekly online magazine by entering your email address in the right-hand menu so you can be notified when the latest issue comes out.

Have you come across a story or initiative you think we should cover? Email your ideas to Eric Zuehlke at ezuehlke@accion.org.

> Posted by Miranda Beshara and Natasha Tynes, Editorial Team, CGAP Arabic Microfinance Gateway

Microfinance in the Middle East and North Africa (MENA) is currently facing a number of challenges that are stifling its growth. On November 19, we attended the Governance Working Group (GWG) call on governance challenges in microfinance institutions (MFIs) in the Arab region organized and hosted by Accion’s Center for Financial Inclusion (CFI). A total of 11 participants representing global MFI governance expertise and initiatives discussed key governance challenges facing MFIs in the region – many of which we captured for the CGAP Arabic Microfinance Gateway while live tweeting from the call.

Several of the call participants were recently engaged in the provision of technical assistance to MFI boards in the Arab region. Karla Brom, a financial consultant, gave a corporate governance workshop at Sanabel’s tenth annual conference. She noticed that risk management and its relation to governance is a key challenge facing the sustainable growth of many MFIs in the region.

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The following post was originally published on the Microfinance Gateway.

As the microfinance industry grows and becomes more complex, governance plays an increasingly important role in managing sound institutions and preventing crises. Corporate governance provides the framework through which an institution’s diverse stakeholders—investors, board members, management, and employees—set the strategic vision, monitor performance, and manage risks.

The Center for Financial Inclusion at Accion has recently announced a partnership with The MasterCard Foundation to launch the Accion Africa Board Fellowship program. The new program will promote peer-to-peer learning on governance and risk management practices at financial institutions that serve low-income clients in sub-Saharan Africa, a region with more than 6.6 million microfinance clients.

We spoke with Beth Rhyne (left), Managing Director of the Center for Financial Inclusion at Accion, and Ann Miles (right), the Director of Financial Inclusion at The MasterCard Foundation, to learn more about their vision for the program.

Good governance helps an institution fulfill its mission, increase efficiency, and improve its ability to attract customers and investors. Why do you think the microfinance industry in Africa needs such a program at this time?

Miles: Good governance begins at the top of any organization. The policies that are set, and the signals that are sent, by board members and CEOs permeate throughout an organization. They are a major component, perhaps the major component, in determining how an organization succeeds in its given mission. So, how a board does its work is critically important, and it’s something that we at The MasterCard Foundation care about a lot.

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> Posted by Center Staff

The following post was originally published on the CGAP Microfinance Gateway.

In follow up to the Financial Inclusion 2020 Global Forum in October, Susy Cheston, Senior Advisor at the Center for Financial Inclusion (CFI), shares key takeaways from the event and what the ongoing impact of this gathering will be leading up to the year 2020.

The Financial Inclusion 2020 Global Forum was a new event in the industry. Why did CFI organize this event?

Our overall goal for the FI2020 Global Forum was to put forward a vision of full financial inclusion for all by 2020, bringing together the leaders from the private and public sectors who can make that vision a reality. Part of the premise was that these different stakeholders don’t often talk with each other, and that there was value in enabling people who ordinarily work on separate aspects of financial inclusion to hear from each other and become more aware of how their own work fits into the broader picture.

Full financial inclusion by the year 2020 is an audacious goal. Did participants agree it was an achievable one?

Very much so. Participants were very optimistic, especially in light of recent innovations in technology, product development, and regulation.

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> Posted by Madeleine Dy and Danielle Piskadlo, Program Specialist and Senior Program Specialist, 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.

It’s heating up—maybe not in terms of the weather but certainly in terms of growth and competition for many microfinance institutions (MFIs). And as growth and competition rapidly increase in many countries, there are many potentially serious risks and impacts that MFIs need to take into account. As we have seen in the crises in Andhra Pradesh, Nicaragua, and Morocco – to name a few – microfinance is risky business, and it can be argued that many industry failings result from poor risk management and oversight. It might also be fair to say that risk management didn’t garner much attention before because times were good, but now, as more markets heat up, it is important that we learn from past mistakes, and focus the necessary resources to implement preventative risk management measures.

To provide MFIs with the risk management resources needed to help tackle this challenge, we are excited to announce that Risk Management was recently added as a “Hot Topic” on the Microfinance Gateway! The risk management resources now available through the Microfinance Gateway were compiled by a dedicated team of Credit Suisse Virtual Volunteers¹ in coordination with the newly established Risk management Initiative in Microfinance (RIM)², which was created to raise awareness as well as develop best practices and appropriate standards for risk management in microfinance globally.

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> Posted by Jeffrey Riecke, Communications Assistant, CFI

There are endless ways to measure the successes of a given year. Number of clients reached. Total new stakeholder endorsement. Amount of capital invested… Though when assessing almost anything, it’s important to think holistically and not be biased by the numbers. That said, I think I can speak for most of the Center in saying that we are excited to share that several CFI-affiliated publications were among the Microfinance Gateway’s Most Popular Publications of 2012. No small feat considering 546 new resources were added to the Gateway this past year. Here’s a brief listing of the CFI pubs that made this top cut:

Over-Indebtedness in Microfinance: An Empirical Analysis of Related Factors on the Borrower Level

This paper by Jessica Schicks analyses the over-indebtedness of microborrowers in Ghana, examining its relationship with poverty, adverse shocks, loan returns, and financial literacy. In defining over-indebtedness, the paper adopts a client perspective, taking into account clients’ repayment struggles and the sacrifices they make to fulfill payment obligations. Some of the paper’s findings are the following: Read the rest of this entry »

> Posted by Holly Padgett

“Does Microfinance Work?” This question represents a very popular topic of discussion both inside and outside the microfinance industry.

One major milestone in the debate over this question has been the publication of David Roodman’s new book, “Due Diligence: An Impertinent Inquiry into Microfinance”.

For anyone who hasn’t been able to follow the conversations surrounding the book, CGAP recently posted, in Microfinance Gateway, a very interesting selection of blog posts, videos, and articles that were created in response to Roodman’s book. These response pieces not only raise questions about Roodman’s analysis, they also, more importantly, put forth ideas about the future of microfinance and the need for a more financially inclusive world. Read the rest of this entry »

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Credit Suisse is a founding sponsor of the Center for Financial Inclusion. The Credit Suisse Group Foundation looks to its philanthropic partners to foster research, innovation and constructive dialogue in order to spread best practices and develop new solutions for financial inclusion.

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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.