The Foundation expands its area of intervention alongside the BPI

By François-Edouard Drion, BPI Crédit Agricole

The International Retail Banking (BPI) of Crédit Agricole joined forces with the Grameen Crédit Agricole Foundation in 2017, by developing a partnership for its two banks in the Mediterranean basin, Crédit Agricole Egypt and Crédit du Maroc.

The BPI and these two institutions pay particular attention to promoting inclusive finance in their territories, as part of their CSR strategy. The Grameen Crédit Agricole Foundation brings its expertise in the development of the microfinance sector.

In Egypt and Morocco, the recognized expertise of the Grameen Crédit Agricole Foundation has enabled us to offer innovative solutions for funding microfinance institutions, which position us distinctly on the market. They fully support our values of proximity, utility in the territory, ethical and responsible finance. This allows us to generate a positive social impact, while promoting a profitable economic model.

We hope that this partnership model will also be implemented in Serbia. Other countries are under study.


Source : Rapport-Annuel-2017

Women’s autonomy, a priority for the Grameen Crédit Agricole Foundation

Economic development is enabled by support for entrepreneurial activities of women. Their independent income is a key factor for reducing gender-related inequalities in the world.

With 77% women among customers active in its partner institutions, compared with less than 50% for the average in the sector, the Foundation is seen as a committed stakeholder. It’s a choice made since it was created, one that is continued today: about one third of the institutions in its portfolio target women in particular.

Zhanna B. Zhakupova, Managing Director of Asian Credit Fund, the Foundation-supported microfinance organization in Kazakhstan, says: “We know that women reinvest over 90% of their income in the family and raising children. Thus, the more women get into economic activities, even the smallest, the more families in Kazakhstan will be able to reach a decent standard of living. This reality is at the heart of ACF. Since 1997, we have supported more than 100,000 women by giving them access to credit and training to start and develop their own business. “

Find out more here: Rapport-Annuel-2017

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.

Interview with Philippe Guichandut, Head of Inclusive Finance Development

By Flora Helard & Mathilde Thonon, In venture

Specialist in rural microfinance and socially responsible investment, the Grameen Crédit Agricole Foundation was created in 2008 under the joint leadership of Crédit Agricole’s directors and Professor Muhammad Yunus, Nobel Peace Prize 2006 and founder of the Grameen Bank (see his interview here). The Foundation promotes the development of local microfinance initiatives and social enterprises in the 32 developing countries in which it operates. In 2017, 49 million euros were allocated to partner microfinance institutions and social enterprises.

We interviewed Philippe Guichandut, Head of Inclusive Finance Development, who told us about the commitments and achievements of the Foundation.

1. The partnership between Crédit Agricole and Grameen is celebrating its 10th anniversary. Based on the experience of the Foundation, can we confirm Professor Yunus’ assertion that the poor are creditworthy?

Indeed, we find that the beneficiaries of microfinance institutions generally repay their loans well, and at better repayment rates than traditional banks for this type of customers. However, the definition of “poor” must be qualified. To help the poorest people, microfinance is not enough. It is necessary to provide complementary non-financial services and personalized assistance, so that clients do not find themselves in situations of over-indebtedness. MFIs that target the poorest populations thus offer information sessions as well as individual support, then credit comes second when the person is more ready and better equipped to develop his economic activity. So I would say yes, under certain conditions, the poor are creditworthy. However, I do not believe that anyone is a potential entrepreneur, many of the microfinance borrowers are in survival logics, especially among the poorest. We must select carefully individuals who will use the credit wisely, in order not to worsen their situation.

2. Why do you think banks have a leading role to play in solving social and environmental problems?

Banks certainly have a role to play, along with NGOs, the government and private companies. It is important that they integrate a social dimension in their activities and evolve towards a more inclusive and responsible functioning, in order not to leave aside a part of the population. The social problem, however, can not be entirely the responsibility of the banks, we need a real paradigm shift in public opinion. Microfinance has emerged to overcome a market failure that did not meet the needs of the entire population, especially in rural areas and among populations excluded from traditional banking systems. Unfortunately, I think that microfinance still has good days ahead.

3. Like Grameen, you are particularly targeting women for your microfinance activities. Do you find differences in the use of credit based on gender?

Of course, we know that women will more easily reinvest the benefits of their activities within the family, like schooling of children, food, habitat, health … This does not mean that men do not do it, but it is generally observed that family consciousness is more prevalent among women, which makes it possible to reach a greater number of people with microfinance and participate in improving the living conditions of the people targeted.

4. Can we measure concretely the impact of microfinance on the well-being of communities? What indicators do you use and do you think that the impact measure should be universal?

Measuring impact is very complex, and for this reason microfinance has often been criticized. We are facing a problem of methodology, there are different schools of thought concerning the measurement of impact. Depending on the methodology adopted, one can find very different results. We have therefore chosen to measure the social performance of our projects with the SPI4-ALINUS rating tool, developed by CERISE for the due diligence and monitoring of social investors. I think it would be too complex and risky to universalize impact measurement because we must take into account local specificities (religion, culture, isolation, level of development …), and these vary enormously from one region to another.

5. Do you think that microfinance activities are exportable in France, or is it reserved for developing countries?

Absolutely, microfinance is developing in France and Europe. It is not restricted to developing countries. These are different markets, different costs but a lot of people who want to develop an economic activity and can not get a loan from a traditional bank are now turning to this solution. The European Microfinance Network (EMN) brings together the institutions involved in Europe and seeks to improve the European and Member States’ legislative frameworks.

6. With this partnership between Crédit Agricole and Grameen, you seem to reaffirm your desire to include rural areas. What is your agenda for further social inclusion of rural and remote areas?

There is a great deal to be done to strengthen the inclusion of rural people, especially farmers. There are very few microfinance institutions that specialize in this sector because it is very risky and highly dependent on climate hazards. Microfinance is generally urban or peri-urban, and when it is rural, it is rarely agricultural. It is a real challenge for us to understand and fund agricultural value chains. Crédit Agricole’s experience in this field in France is very useful for us. 77% of our beneficiaries come from rural areas, and between 20 and 30% work in agriculture.

7. The Foundation also invests in social enterprises. What are your selection criteria for the ones you finance? Do you invest in early stage social business or at a more advanced stage?

We do not invest in startups but rather in social enterprises already developed, not necessarily economically sustainable but that has a real potential for development. For us, the most important thing is that the company’s main mission is truly social. We have a social charter signed by entrepreneurs and sharholders to ensure that the social impact is the driving force behind the development of their business. In a second step, we study their business plan, capital requirements, market relevance and social indicators. We also value entrepreneurs’ personalities because they are the ones who will make the business work or not, and trust is the foundation of any partnership.

8. In your advocacy activities, do you feel that there is still much work to be done to reconcile the world of finance and the world of social assistance and environmental protection to the general public?

I had a long career in the associative world before joining the Grameen Crédit Agricole Foundation. There is a real cultural difference, but the traditional opposition between these sectors stems mainly from a mutual misunderstanding and a lot of stereotypes. The private and the social sectors have never been so close, more and more initiatives in common are developing and the private sector has acquired a real awareness of social and environmental issues. It is also a matter of generation, young people today have a different sensitivity and we are only at the beginning of this rapprochement.

9. As Crédit Agricole clients, what can we do at our individual level to participate in the inclusive finance movement?

There are many opportunities to participate in this movement individually, but most people are not aware of it. A lot of awareness work is needed to give access to this information. You can subscribe to Finansol labeled products, invest in social enterprises, buy goods or services provided by companies of the ESS. If you work in a large company, you can choose to use employee savings. Also go to your bank to inquire about your possibilities.

Second meeting of the Foundation Friends Club


The second meeting of the Foundation Friends Club, the very first of 2018, took place on June 26 and brought together collaborators of both Crédit Agricole Group and the Foundation. This event provided an opportunity for sharing information on the Foundation’s activities and its projects with the Group. The meeting was organized in three parts and focused on the Foundation’s activities in 2017, the program “Solidary Banker by CA”, and the cooperation schemes with Group entities at the international level.

Eric Campos, Delegate general of the Foundation, opened the event by making a brief presentation about the Foundation and its 2017 integrated report. With 49,3 million euros of financing granted in 2017 and 69 microfinance and social business institutions supported in more than 30 countries, the Foundation has shown a positive record and has confirmed its position as an actor committed with a more inclusive economy.

Thereafter, the meeting turned to the existing synergies between the Foundation and the Crédit Agricole Group. Carolina Herrera, Head of Communication & Investors and Partners Relations, presented the skills-based volunteering programme “Solidary Banker by CA”, recently established between the Foundation and Crédit Agricole SA. This is a unique initiative in the history of both the Group and the Foundation, which aims at strengthening the assistance provided by the Foundation to microfinance institutions and social businesses while promoting skills of Crédit Agricole group collaborators.

This is the case of Jonathan Michaud, an agricultural engineer of Crédit Agricole Franche-Comté who participated in the event with the purpose of sharing his experience after a mission to the Laiterie du Berger in Senegal – a social business of which the Foundation and the Caisse Régionale are shareholders.

During the meeting, Hélène Sananikone, equity investment manager of the Foundation, and Jonathan Michaud presented the Laiterie du Berger that promotes the development of the dairy industry in Northern Senegal through a cooperative production mode.

Besides Crédit Agricole France-Comté’s societal commitment, similarities between Laiterie du Berger’s business model and Franche-Comté’s development paradigm have motivated the Caisse Régionale to support this project. As a result of the mission, a detailed action plan has been elaborated and approved by the Laiterie’s Executive Board. The purpose of this action plan is to enhance the business’s productivity and ensure the sustainability of its business model.

The final part of this Foundation’s Circle of Friends meeting focused on the cooperation between the Foundation and the Group at the international level. Caroline Brandt and Violette Cubier, investment managers of the Foundation, presented the cooperation schemes – already in place in Egypt and under negotiation in India, Serbia and Morocco. These partnerships will provide financing to local microfinance institutions, thus allowing both the Foundation to expand its activities and Group entities to position themselves as funders of the social solidarity economy sector.

At the end of the meeting, the audience has been invited to the next edition of the Foundation’s Circle of Friends to take place on October 2nd in Crédit Agricole Montrouge Campus. More news will follow on the Foundation and Group commitments in favor of the inclusive finance sector and the development of rural economies around the world.

International stakeholders shares on Customer Centricity and Social Perfomance Management

Last February 19-22, The Social Performance Task Force (SPTF), CGAP, Dvara, and Leapfrog Investments jointly organized in Mamallapuram (Tamil Nadu), a Customer Centricity Learning event together with the SPTF’s Annual Meeting.

280 participants discussed practitioner experiences and case studies on how to conduct business generating value for customers as the best way to achieve the dual goals of commercial success and financial inclusion. Among hot topics discussed were opportunities and risks of technology and the digitalisation of financial services, measurement and management of financial services’ customer outcomes, customer segmentation for better product-adaptation and the Mimosa India report on lending penetration.

Financial success of the inclusive finance sector certainly is a necessary condition, but it is not a sufficient condition to guarantee positive change on clients’ lives through financial services. As crises of recent years in Bosnia, Morocco, Bolivia, but also some states of India have shown, high growth and profitability are not an indicator for improving clients lives, and not even for long term financial performance. This is why the financial inclusion industry, through the coordination of SPTF, has jointly defined commonly accepted best practices to describe and evaluate the responsible provision of financial services: the Universal Standards (USSPM).

Since its inception in 2008, the Grameen Credit Agricole Foundation, in line with its mission to support and promote responsibility within the financial inclusion space, has cooperated in the development and since then supported and implemented the systematic evaluation and analysis of social performance along financial performance with all our partners. The Grameen credit agricole Foundation is an associate member of MFIN since 2017.

Since 2016, the Foundation performs an annual social performance portfolio evaluation, which allows measuring relative performances to the market and detecting areas for potential improvement and achievement of its annual action plan. Presented to management and Board, this analysis allows for monitoring the achievement of our mission. It is communicated externally to share learnings and practice (See the Foundation’s and other SPI4 benchmarks at: //