Tuesday, April 22, 2008

Scaling up microfinance

Microfinance is not a magic bullet, but it is part of a broad array of things that can improve lives in developing countries. (Others include better education, healthcare, basic services, rule of law, small business promotion, and infrastructure.)

A big question is how to scale up microfinance so it can be available to a lot more people.

If this is an issue you are interested in, I recommend Rob Katz's recent post over on NextBillion. He reports on a recent conference in New York hosted by the Council on Foreign Relations, where the speakers included Roshaneh Zafar, founder of Kashf Foundation in Pakistan, which lists projects on GlobalGiving.

The panelists discussed a range of issues, including interest rates (don't cap them, they agree) and commercialization. The need for increased competition in providing microfinance in many countries is clear.

Rob concludes as follows:
I was especially struck at how easily Iskendarian and Zafar can move from discussing the business aspects of microfinance to the social aspects. Their organizations seem to have been able to merge these two goals – financial sustainability and poverty alleviation – without compromising either.