Thursday, August 13, 2009

Odds and Ends: Chevron, Angola and microcredit

A story we passed over earlier this week was brought back to our attention today by a blog post at The ONE Campaign. Chevron recently signed an agreement with USAID to help boost Angola's economy. Chevron already has a large oil concern in the country. Now the donations of money to USAID will help improve other areas of Angola's economy.

First let's get the news story, from San Francisco Times business reporter Elizabeth Rauber.

Secretary of State Hillary Clinton witnessed the Memorandum of Understanding (MOU) for the project in Angola’s capital, Luanda. According to the document, the partnership will support financial, educational, technical and training services to improve the viability of small and medium scale farmers in the southern African state.

According to Chevron spokesman Scott Walker, the MOU is an extension to the $56 million Angola Partnership Initiative, created in 2002. The original partnership was comprised of a $25 million investment by Chevron, and $31 million from USAID and other development organizations. The new MOU focuses on agricultural initiatives to increase yield and market share for small to medium scale farmers. This new agreement follows a 5-year, $5.6 million Agriculture Development and Finance Program that commenced in 2006.

Chevron didn’t say how much it will put into this program.

Now, a clarification on what the MOI will actually do for Angola from the ONE Campaign's Beth Adler.

As Secretary Clinton mentioned in her remarks, part of this investment will be directed towards smallholder farmers in an effort to boost agricultural productivity. Often oil-producers invest in support for non-oil business in order to bolster social and political stability in a country, which also helps protect their oil-related investments. The Memorandum of Understanding that was signed will provide continuity for the $56 million Angola Partnership Initiative between USAID, Chevron, and other partners that supports initiatives on education, food security, government capacity building, and small business development.

And also, the Wall Street Journal has a story today on the microcredit "bubble". Some economists cant figure out why microcredit is still running strong despite the global recession. The Wall Street Journal however is a subscription website, so we were unale to devote a single post to it.

In a reaction to the news story, Charlotte Connors knows very well why microcredit is sucsessful. We found her explanation at Accion International's blog.

Twenty-seven industry leaders and more than six hundred MFI’s, Investors, Donors, Networks and Associations have gotten behind the Campaign for Client Protection in Microfinance. First announced at the Clinton Global Initiative in September 2008, the Campaign, under the leadership of the Center for Financial Inclusion at ACCION International and the Consultative Group to Assist the Poor (CGAP), seeks to unite microfinance providers worldwide to develop and implement standards for the appropriate treatment of low-income clients, based on six principles, which the Campaign aims to embed within the fabric of the microfinance community. The first of these principles is avoidance of over-indebtedness (which has the subject of the WSJ article).

The Campaign aims to develop norms, knowledge and tools that will help MFIs develop and maintain a rigorous focus on client welfare. The first of such tools, available online, is a Client Protection Questionnaire that provides a detailed self-assessment of controls currently in place.

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