Thursday, June 11, 2009

The Microcredit Summit Campaign meets in Colombia

The Microcredit Summit Campaign is now holding a conference in Colombia. Conference attendees are talking about ways to expand microcredit, despite the global recession getting in the way. Some ideas are a stock exchange that deals only in stock for microcredit banks, and changing some countries laws that make the very practice of microcredit illegal.

A lucky student from Indiana University got to travel to Colombia to cover the summit. From the Indiana Daily Student, reporter Nathaniel Kenninger gives us this summary.

“The challenge is finding a way to give the more than 1 billion people who still lack financial services in the world a helping hand especially as microfinance and microbusinessmen are being greatly affected by the world financial crisis,” said Reynold Walter, executive director of Fundacion de Asesoria Financiera a Instituciones de Desarrollo y Servicio Social in Guatemala.

Some of the recommendations discussed at the summit to increase the poor’s access to financial services include using technology to create cost-effective e-banking, creating a stock market that trades only in microfinance and microenterprise organizations, and creating a legal framework for the microfinance industry.

“Microfinance doesn’t have a home or regulatory framework to allow for sustainability,” Yunus said. “Taking savings as a microfinance institution is an illegal activity in many countries, and these antiquated laws must be changed.”

Speakers cited the ongoing worldwide financial crisis as reason to take drastic action soon.

“The financial crisis has shown the world that microfinance is how the world should do banking,” said Elisabeth Rhyne, managing director of the Center for Financial Inclusion at ACCION USA, an American microfinance firm. “(Microfinance) has a way to change how private industry does business and how to work toward full financial inclusion. In short, microfinance shows how business can have a soul.”

The summit also had sessions on how to improve transparency in interest rate pricing, integration of microfinance with health care, use of technology for greater efficiency and how microfinance institutions can have a positive impact on gender equality and the environment.

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