Microfinance and refugees: a promising collaboration

By Alexia Van Rij & Philippe Guichandut, Grameen Crédit Agricole Foundation


What if microfinance was the key to integrating refugees?

Often perceived as risky and instable customers, refugees are generally not or poorly assisted by financial service providers, despite blatant needs. Yet, the few instances of loans granted to refugees seem to present successful outcomes[1].

In light of this observation, the UNHCR (United Nations High Commission for Refugees) and the Sida (Swedish International Development Cooperation Agency) launched a programme promoting access to financial and non-financial services for refugees in Uganda and in Jordan. Thus, the Grameen Crédit Agricole Foundation was selected to support its partner microfinance institutions to reconsider the issue of refugees in their strategy.

Microfinanza[2] was in charge of the first study on the needs to access financial and non-financial services. In this context, we spent three days in the Nakivale camp, in the South of Uganda, experiencing fascinating exchanges and encounters with Burundian, Rwandan, and Congolese refugees.

At the heart of Nakivale in Uganda: a strong need to access financial services

Uganda is the third most important host country in the world in number of refugees, with more than 1.4 million refugees by the end of March 2018. Following the crisis in South Soudan in 2013, an increasing number of refugees entered Uganda: the UNHCR estimates around 1,800 per day. The country has one of the most favourable refugee policies in the world, allowing them to receive a piece of land to cultivate, to work, to gain free access to Ugandan social services (education, health), to enjoy freedom of movement and to receive identity papers. In this remarkable context, the Foundation joined the Microfinanza team in Nakivale, one of the oldest refugee camps in Uganda, to assist them in their study with the refugees.

Nakivale now hosts more than 100,000 people, mostly from Rwanda, Burundi and Democratic Republic of Congo, divided in small localities over 185 km2. Most of residents in Nakivale have benefited from pieces of land granted by the government, used for agriculture and farming. Others manage a small restaurant, a hair salon or a clothing store. In sum: classic activities for microfinance institutions. However, no microfinance institution is involved in the camp and refugees must rely solely on solidarity within the camp.

Moban Sacco, a credit savings organisation with no less than 1,449 members, arose from mutual aid in the face of a lack of capital. Thanks to Moban Sacco, refugees can save up small amounts and can receive some credits, but this is unanimously considered as not enough to enable them to really develop their businesses.

Dismissed prejudices

One of fears that microfinance institutions have towards refugees is that the latter will return to their country of origin without paying their debts. It must be noted that in Nakivale, none of the refugees interviewed project to go back to their country of origin because of the level of insecurity in those regions, some of them being settled in the camp for more than 15 years (7-8 years on average) with the firm intention of developing their micro-enterprise on the spot.

Moreover, all the refugees we met maintained that they had a concrete idea of how they would use a loan if it were granted to them. In other words, ideas are not lacking but the capital is! How could we forget this woman’s story, from the region of Kivu, Congo, who was the sole provider of her three children, hairdresser and whose 11-year old son was translating her words because she strove her whole life for him to learn English? After she left her country without any money, she did not have the means to start up her hair salon and she was dependent on food rations provided by the UNHCR to survive with her three children. Or, what about our encounter with a Rwandan head of company, who created, six years ago, with his few economies, a company to grind seeds. He succeeded in employing three people to develop his activity, but his small savings did not allow him to expand his business and buy new high-performance equipment.

These examples, amongst many others, highlight how diverse circumstances can be, and how women and men with great talents, experiences and will to take control of their own destiny, often see their potential wasted, although they could have done it in their country of origin before the situation got out of their control.

At the Foundation, we are convinced that microfinance institutions, while adapting their products and services, have an active role to play in promoting the financial inclusion of refugees. Opportunities for digital finance, an in-depth knowledge of each group’s characteristics and a regular follow-up should stimulate such an involvement. Meetings with partner microfinance institutions of the Foundation lead to believe that they will be involved and will take on the challenge of offering inclusive financial services to refugees and their host communities.

The ongoing study alongside with Microfinanza that will be made public this year should provide concrete guidelines for our partners to get actively involved. With our support and the joint work with UNHCR and Sida, that can be a reality.


[1] See : New issues in refugee research, Michelle Azorbo, Research paper N.199, UNHCR; Microfinance for Refugees, Thimothy H. Nourse, American Refugee Committee here.
[2] Company selected through call for bids.

Open Day at the Grameen Credit Agricole Foundation

By Killian Grippon & Chloé Liquard, Grameen Crédit Agricole Foundation


On June 8th, the Grameen Crédit Agricole Foundation welcomed partners and entities from the Crédit Agricole group to present the Foundation’s businesses and discuss its actions for a better-shared economy.

The day was full of exchanges and lessons, with presentations from the Foundation’s team members, interventions from Jean-Marie Sander, Chairman of the Foundation, Jean-Michel Severino, Administrator of the Foundation, and Sébastien Duquet, OXUS Managing Director, a network of microfinance institutions supported by the Foundation.

This open day reaffirmed the Foundation’s commitment to rigour, engagement, and sharing in favour of inclusive finance. Taking part in this event allowed us to be completely immersed in the world of the Foundation during the first days of our internship.

The world of finance shaken by global challenges

Climate change, security, migration… The world of finance is influenced by a complex range of interdependent features. Climate change will continue to transform politics, security, and the socio-economic context. Getting access to resources is increasingly difficult, which exacerbates tensions, inequality and conflicts. The number of refugees is on the rise: the International Organization for Migration predicts that there will be 200 million refugees by 2050[1]. World’s population is growing: several studies forecast that there will be around 10 billion people on Earth by 2050[2]. Faced with such demographic growth, many questions arise regarding the abilities to feed, accommodate, and guarantee the economic and social integration of billions of people.

What can be done regarding this alarming estimate? There is an urgent need to mobilize resources, to act in partnership and to integrate these social and environmental challenges into the economy of today and tomorrow. This integrated approach is at the heart of inclusive finance and of the actions of the Grameen Crédit Agricole Foundation. When we joined the Foundation team, we discovered its partnership approach, based on adaptability and accountability to better meet the needs of marginalized populations. For us, this is the finance of the future, that captures the diversity of present and future challenges and that adapts to a changing world.

The Foundation, a key actor for inclusive finance

Since its creation in 2008, the Foundation has worked in favour of developing inclusive finance by supporting microfinance institutions (MFI) and companies like social businesses all around the world. Jean-Marie Sander, Chairman of the Foundation, opened the day by reaffirmed this strong and common commitment to developing a better-shared economy. During the day, the Foundation’s team members presented their roles, the projects and the actions of the Foundation. As newcomers in the microfinance and social sphere, by the end of the day, we shared the same observation: this field is more complex than it looks.

For example, the range of financing tools and services offered and developed is wide and adapted to the specific needs of microfinance institutions. The African Facility, an initiative carried out with the French Development Agency (FDA), exemplifies how the Foundation’s offer has evolved towards more global support for the MFI. Thus, after the first stage of the programme enabling the support of 16 rural MFI in Sub-Saharan Africa, the second phase will take place between 2017 and 2020 and will facilitate financing and granting technical assistance to over 20 institutions.

The Foundation also reinforced its links with the Crédit Agricole entities. Therefore, guarantee schemes are being developed with Group members in Egypt, Morocco, Serbia, and India. A long-term financing of €14 million granted by the Crédit Agricole Corporate Investment Bank will allow the Foundation to reinforce its actions in upcoming years. Crédit Agricole Indosuez Wealth (Asset Management) will manage the Investment Funds, for which the Foundation has an advisory mandate. To mention a final partnership agreement, the skills volunteering programme “Banquier solidaire” between Crédit Agricole SA and the Foundation was launched just a week before the Open Day. As part of this programme, the collaborators of the Group will be able to go on a mission to help the MFI and social businesses supported by the Foundation. This is the first time that such a partnership between the Crédit Agricole and the Foundation is launched.

Promoting inclusive finance also involves raising awareness about challenges brought about by climate change in the rural sphere. Improving rural producers’ ability for resilience is as crucial as facilitating access to financing to ensure the sustainability of the agricultural sector. This is the Foundation’s approach that is implemented not only through technical assistance, but also through its activities surrounding the agricultural microinsurance. The Foundation launched a pilot project of microinsurance in Mali to bolster RMCR, one of its partner MFI, to offer an insurance for drought risks to its borrowers. The project must tackle some challenges, but it will continue to progress in order to make the product more affordable and adapted.

Exchanging with Sébastien Duquet, Managing Director of OXUS, a MFI network intervening in post-conflict zones, allowed us to better apprehend the synergy between financial inclusion and humanitarian actions. Getting access to microcredit services is essential in the context of economic revival. Nevertheless, disparities in terms of social performance remain, including on gender and rurality, which is a significant challenge.

Perspectives: leverage impact and work in partnership

What conclusions have we drawn from this encounter? First, the Open Day allowed us to have a better understanding of the Foundation’s role and the ways in which it is committed for a more inclusive and responsible economy. Furthermore, several strategic focuses for the upcoming years can be distinguished: partnerships, supporting for the agricultural world and a responsible approach.

Indeed, the Foundation is focused on a partnership approach. Fighting against poverty is a responsibility that must be shared by different actors. The Foundation will continue to work with private, public and social actors to increase its impact and extend its geographical coverage. Developing the agricultural world will remain a priority for the Foundation, by supporting microfinance in rural areas and by encouraging social entrepreneurship. Finally, the Foundation will continue to promote a responsible approach for its activities.

To wrap up the day, Jean-Michel Severino, Administrator of the Foundation, gave a powerful speech on the issues at stakes for development in Africa. Food insecurity, rapid population growth, and shifting markets: the African continent has to face several major challenges and the Foundation and its partners have an important role to play.

This Open Day was the first of many events that the Foundation will organize throughout the year. These “Meetings for a shared economy” will be a platform for exchanging and sharing experiences with the Foundation’s partners and we look forward to being part of it.


[1] //www.unhcr.org/4df9cc309.pdf
[2] //www.un.org/development/desa/fr/news/population/world-population-prospects-2017.html

Crédit Agricole sponsors Plastic Odyssey expedition

What is this project about?

The Plastic Odyssey project is based on the following goal: to collect plastic waste on the coasts before it pollutes the oceans, and transform it into fuel, thanks to an innovative process adapting pyrolysis technology for use by shipping. Once this has been achieved, Plastic Odyssey could provide this technology to the local populations in emerging countries, with an impact on the environment and also on job creation.

Who’s involved?

Crédit Agricole S.A., five Regional Banks* and CAMCA Mutuelle are sponsors, for a total of €115,000, with support from the Grameen Crédit Agricole Foundation.

What are the next steps?

The prototype, Ulysse, will be launched at Concarneau on 15 June, and will be on display for six months. This is a miniature copy of the ship that will put to sea in 2020. The second step will include building the ship, followed by a three-year voyage stopping at 30 ports of call in South America, Africa and Asia.

* Aquitaine, Finistère, Normandie, Normandie-Seine, Provence Côte d’Azur

>>> Further Information

What to read this week: Peace, security and development in the Sahel

From the demographic challenge to the environment, passing by the stakes of the fight against poverty, Jean-Marc Chataigner exposes his vision of the development of the Sahel and calls upon “the pursuit of an increased international solidarity” by “an approach joint, partnership, co-built with governments, communities, local associations, populations. Spotlight on his interview.

What challenges and prospects for an integrated approach for the return to lasting peace in the Sahel?

The major challenges of the region require the pursuit of increased international solidarity because the Sahelian countries do not yet have the capacity to face them alone. We need a joint, partnership approach, co-constructed with governments, communities, local associations, populations. There needs to be an integrated approach to the different components of action of the international community, national, regional and international efforts. Through the mission entrusted to me by the Minister of Europe and Foreign Affairs, Jean-Yves Le Drian, France promotes the idea of ​​a more articulated approach to the various political and diplomatic actions, in particular for the implementation of the peace agreement in Mali, security efforts, through the establishment of the joint force of the G5 Sahel and the relay which will ultimately have to be taken in renewed approaches to development.

The Sahel Alliance, launched in 2017 by Chancellor Merkel and President Macron, aims in this direction to obtain concrete results in a limited number of sectors, on subjects essential for the future of the Sahel which have nevertheless been neglected. recent years by donors like agriculture and education. The Sahel Alliance favors an approach in terms of the effectiveness of official development assistance (ODA) and the transparency and accountability of the actions implemented, in close collaboration with the partner governments and the civil societies concerned. It intends to strengthen the targeting of donor actions on the most fragile and vulnerable areas, peripheral and distant from capitals, and promote better coordination of development programs with humanitarian and security issues.

How to rebuild a trusting and lasting partnership between France and the African continent?

Relations between France and Africa have always had a particular dimension linked to a shared history made up of difficult times, but also of an exemplary community of weapons to face the enemies of freedom. But the world of 2018 is no longer that of 1945 or even that of 1958. International relations have evolved profoundly with the end of the Cold War, the attacks of 2001, the emergence of new powers, the appearance of planetary threats which we have to face and which can cause strong nationalist withdrawals. In this new international concert, France, and through it more broadly Europe, and Africa have common interests to assert.

In his speech in Ouagadougou last November, the President of the Republic clearly laid the foundations for this new relationship to be built, notably through the call for better listening to African youth, a real change in method in the management of aid to development, “no longer build cathedrals to our glory” he even said, the priority to education, in particular that of young girls, the common fight against religious extremism and obscurantism , the launch of a reflection on the restitution of African heritage, the conditions of movement of African students and the reception of African talents, investment in the African infrastructures of tomorrow. All these subjects, I do not cite them all because the list is impressive, are crucial for the establishment of a relationship of respect, partnership and balance, alone capable of establishing lasting mutual trust in the long term between our two continents.

What are the challenges of growth, peace and security for Europe and Africa?

Africa is the site of essential economic and security issues for Europe in a rapidly changing geographical area with strong demographic development.
The takeoff of many African countries is now underway and represents commercial and investment opportunities for Europe in emerging markets. Conversely, the persistence of fragile and failed states poses a threat to both our collective security and the sustainability of African development. The strengthening of regional peace capacities and the deployment on the G5 Sahel model of African military forces capable of coping with the various threats to peace and security on the continent is therefore a fundamental priority.

The complete columnhere.

A partnership to reinforce the climate smart finance

Family agriculture in Africa represents most of the agricultural production in the continent. This kind of agriculture is particularly affected by climate change. Rural microfinance institutions (MFIs) must adapt their practices to implement new ways to manage theirs and the clients’ risks. To face this challenge, the Grameen Crédit Agricole Foundation and YAPU, a German social Fintech company, jointed forces to support the MFIs in digitalising their operations and updating their information systems by integrating climatic risks.

In November 2017, the Grameen Cédit Agricole Foundation and YAPU signed a cooperation agreement to develop services in the field of Climate-smart finance. This approach aims at integrating climate-related risks in the financial institutions’ products and services. By adopting this approach, the MFIs will be able to further develop viable and climate change resilient economic activities, which will contribute to the preservation and restoration of ecosystems.

Two projects will be launched in 2018 as part of this partnership


Created in 2008, under the joint impetus of the directors of Crédit Agricole S.A. and Professor Yunus, winner of the 2006 Nobel Peace Prize and founder of the Grameen Bank, the Grameen Crédit Agricole SA Foundation is a multi-business operator that contributes to the fight against poverty through financial inclusion and entrepreneurship with a social impact. As an investor, lender, technical assistance coordinator and fund advisor, the Foundation supports microfinance institutions and social enterprises in nearly 40 countries.

A new partnership between the Grameen Crédit Agricole Foundation and Crédit Agricole Egypt

By Violette Cubier, Grameen Crédit Agricole Foundation

Interview to Walie Lotfy, Head of Proximity Banking at Crédit Agricole Egypt. Egypte.

Could you present the partnership between CAE and the GCA Foundation?

The project of partnership between Crédit Agricole Egypt and the Grameen Credit Agricole Foundation started more than 3 years ago. However, due to regulatory challenges, we were not able to conclude this partnership. Since, both entities believed in the potential of the market, we restarted our project in 2017 with a completely new and better-structured scheme of cooperation that also satisfies all the Group and regulatory requirements, especially the compliance related aspects.

Thus, we have fruitfully joined forces to structure a lending scheme to well-known microfinance institutions (MFI). The 1st transaction for EGP 58 million (approximately EUR 2.8 million) took place with one of Egypt’s top MFI, the Dakahlya Businessmen Association for Community Development (DBACD).

With this first successful transaction, CA Egypt will join the league of banks offering microfinance in the country and will expand its scope of services, in line with the Bank’s strategy for sustainable growth by reaching new potential sectors.

How could the banking sector contribute to the development of microfinance in Egypt?

The banking sector in Egypt has historically refrained from getting involved in microfinance business due to the complexity of the sector. That is why State-owned banks have historically dominated this market. However, recently the Central Bank of Egypt has put in place incentive mechanisms for banks to support the development of microfinance in the country. In addition, all the banks have realized the underlying potential of the microfinance market, not only because of its assets’ quality but also because of the high profitability levels. Most of the banks are now competing to lend to microfinance institutions.

According to you, what is the added value of working with the Foundation and what are the perspectives and future prospects?

This partnership fulfills the Groups’ strategy to enhance synergies between its different entities. It brings mutual benefits for both GCA Foundation and CA Egypt. For GCA Foundation, it will open new markets for its expansion. For CA Egypt, having the Foundation’s knowledge and expertise backing up is a great support. It should definitely help in expanding our scope of services and penetrate the Egypt microfinance market with lower associated risk. It will also give CA Egypt an edge over the competition who might lack this kind of expertise.

The partnership also gives the Bank additional visibility and better positioning on the map of microfinance in Egypt, GCA Foundation being recognized as one of the key players in the field.

For future prospects, I believe that this cooperation has strong potentials. We have learned several lessons from this pilot transaction and both entities will continue optimizing the process to develop a more competitive scheme, reaching high potential to scale up our impact, while keeping risk under control.

Crédit Agricole Assurances and the Grameen Crédit Agricole Foundation on a mission in Burkina Faso

Crédit Agricole Assurances is alongside the Grameen Crédit Agricole Foundation in Burkina Faso in a due diligence for CIF-VIE, one of the country’s main insurance companies that is an interest of the Foundation. This mission reflects the dual ambition of the Foundation: to reinforce its presence in the field of micro-insurance and to strengthen its relations with the Crédit Agricole Group.

CIF-VIE: a high-potential company

CIF-VIE initiated its activity in 2013 in Burkina Faso, supported by the RCPB, the main microfinance cooperative network in the country, and by ADA (a Luxembourg NGO). It aims at improving the protection of policyholders and beneficiaries by proposing a complete range of life and death insurances, as well as capitalisation products in Burkina.

Nowadays, the company represents 6% of the market. Since its creation, CIF-VIE has produced net positive results and its growth has now reached a new level with a strategic, operational and financial transformation. Its action plan is to open its capital to new shareholders in order to conform to the new requirements formulated by the CIMA (the Inter-African Insurance Market Conference); to restructure its organisation for better efficiency and risk management; and to develop its products and expand its distribution network. Its goal is to reach the top five insurance companies in Burkina Faso by 2020.

The Foundation and Crédit Agricole Assurances stand together to support microfinance

The Grameen Crédit Agricole Foundation supports 70 microfinance institutions and social businesses in over 30 countries. Acting as an investor, a financer and a technical assistance coordinator, the Foundation reinforces its contribution to the financial transition by supporting the development of micro-insurance in Africa.

Acknowledging the high potential of CIF-VIE, the Foundation conducted a due diligence, along with Crédit Agricole Assurances, to further its understanding of CIF-VIE’s structure and to assess the possibilities to invest. Pierre Casal Ribeiro, Micro-insurance expert at the Foundation conducted the mission, accompanied by Eduardo Cardoso de Miranda, Loan insurance expert at Crédit Agricole Assurances, supported by El-Hadj Diop, Investment Officer, and Céline Hyon-Naudin, Social business Officer at the Foundation.

In the framework of its corporate social responsibility, Crédit Agricole Assurances, the first insurance Group in France and the first bank insurer in Europe, has been closely collaborating with the Foundation to promote its employees’ skills and convictions for the common good.

The driving force of this collaboration is the will to invest in a better shared economy.