Last week we launched the new umbrella organization “Danish Forum for Microfinance”, or DFM. It was a pleasure to see around 150 people coming to attend the launch and there was great enthusiasm on the topic. Notably, some large commercial actors were present, too. Axel de Ville made a very engaging talk and gave us some great advice and good ideas for our future work as an organization and how to ensure that we are relevant to the members. Axel’s experience is very relevant to us as he is chairman of the European Microfinance Platform and director of ADA – a Luxembourgish NGO doing microfinance. As chairman of the board I also got the chance to speak. Here’s my presentation and more info on the event at DFM’s website.
Just two months ago I started writing a PhD. My topic is – surprise – microfinance, but more specifically, microsavings, i.e. the provision of savings services to poorer populations. The Economist recentely wrote on this topic, so apparently, someone else than me is interested. That’s great. The Economist agrees with me that microsavings is overlooked, that it’s important and that it will grow in the future. Even greater. The newspaper writes that “the industry remains dominated by credit”. I’m not too sure about that. At least it depends on who you ask. In 2004, CGAP looked at the world’s MFI’s and found that the world’s poor had just above 100m savings accounts but only around 50m active loans. There are quite some uncertainties in this data and it’s old too. Indeed, there are signs that there is a great demand for savings services (see the box on this page), but not much research seems to have been done on microsavings – at least not compared to the vast amount of research on microcredit. For example, nobody seems to have answered simple questions like why people are savings and what the effect is. Hopefully, I can contribute here just a little bit. Comments and suggestions are more than welcome.
Portfolio’s is a book not to be missed by serious microfinance people. It documents why microcredit is secondary and supporting cash flow management is primary to poor people’s finances. To find out more, you can read more in the review of the book I made together with Kristine Pors in Udvikling (page 21) or listen to two of the authors in this podcast.
Last week, the Danish microfinance sector got its own organisation for knowledge sharing. It’s called the Danish Forum for Microfinance. See more at Ulandsnyt:
Last week, two Danish sociology students, Anders Ludvig Sevelsted and Lasse Folke Henriksen, defended their thesis on what you could call a sociology of global microfinance. By looking at the role of professional economists in global microfinance, they show (among other things) that economics as an academic discipline anchored in the North/West has played a profound role in the development of microfinance globally, not least the focus on financial sustainability and the decision of the World Bank to endorse and promote microfinance through CGAP. I had the pleasure of serving as a secondary adviser, and am glad to see that besides the conclusions in the thesis, the work also prove by its example that there is a great unfulfilled need for sociologists in microfinance.
If they read this post, they perhaps want to answer a couple of questions :- )
1) Given the conclusions in your thesis, what should microfinance practitioners do differently?
2) What other questions have you come across that would be interesting for sociologists to look at in microfinance?
While working with DanChurchAid, I have done a few introductory presentations on microfinance. One of them is here:
The rest are at this website.
I will soon start doing more work on microfinance, and perhaps that’s a good reason to post more on this blog. Of the things I will most likely be doing are working with Village Savings and Loans Associations and attending the European Microfinance Week.
It’s surprisingly simple what they’ve done recently in Norway to boost their microfinance activities with 117m USD: Norfund invests 53m USD and provides expertise in how to invest in developing countries, Norad provides 1,6m USD and technincal expertise in microfinance and – the real surprise – four commercial companies invest another 53m USD and chip in with their experience in managing money. This is a genuine Public Private Partnership (PPP).
And PPP’s are hot. Everybody (in the public sectors I know of) wants them, but few know what it is. The result has been a number of PPPs that look more like ordinary procurement of services or grants for ventures that real partnerships, at least in Denmark, whereas the true partnerships have been rare.
Creating one of the world’s largest microfinance funds as a PPP is pretty cool, then. Some questions arise: Will the private and publics involved be able to complement each other and gain from it? Will the Norwegian Microfinance Initiative be able to invest its massive pool of funds without crowding out real private investors? Will the interplay between capacity development and investment work to make the institutions capable of absorbing such an amount of capital, when it is acknowledged that “growth of the microfinance sector is constrained by the limited ability of MFIs to absorb large capital inflows”?
Let’s hope Danish actors will be as innovative.