The Grameen Crédit Agricole Foundation acts for financial inclusion in India

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With about 190 million adults without a bank account, India has –after China– the second-largest unbanked population in the world (World Bank). The microfinance sector has become a key instrument to fight financial exclusion in the country by providing financial and non-financial services to people excluded from the banking system. The sector has shown spectacular development: it reaches 60 million borrowers, for a total portfolio of 27 billion euros.

To support the development of microfinance in India, Grameen Crédit Agricole Foundation has granted a loan of 3 million euros over 3 years to Pahal Financial Services Private Limited, an Ahmedabad (Gujarat) based microfinance institution. Since its creation in 2011, Pahal has served nearly 750,000 customers, mainly women borrowers, across 167 branches with total assets under management of 81 million euros. Today, Pahal is one of the fastest growing microfinance institutions in India thanks to innovative and diverse product offering for low-income people.

“With this new partnership, the Grameen Crédit Agricole Foundation strengthens its action in favour of financial inclusion and women empowerment in India. This funding is our first direct exposure in India, using the External Commercial Borrowing channel recently opened by the Reserve Bank of India. The company has shown in many occasions its resilience and we trust that Pahal, its clients and the whole industry are recovering fast from this crisis”, said Caroline Brandt, Senior Investment Manager at the Foundation.

“Grameen Credit Agricole Foundation’s  debt line is a validation of Pahal’s business model and displays the resilience of the microfinance sector in India”, said Kartik Mehta, Co-Founder and Managing Director. “We at Pahal are determined to be a part of financial inclusion agenda for the vulnerable sections of the society. This money will be used to onlend to the women borrowers of Pahal”, added Purvi Bhavsar, Co-Founder and Managing Director.

The Foundation’s financial support comes at a time when the microfinance sector is emerging out of the Covid-19 crisis. After lockdown relaxation, the anticipated microcredit demands are expected to trigger swift recovery of the sector. Pahal, in partnership with the Foundation, will support its borrowers to help them restart their businesses.

SINAPI Aba and its work for women entrepreneurship in Ghana

Launched by the Canadian government in 2017, the FINEDEV (Financial Inclusion for Enterprise Development) programme promotes business development through financial inclusion in Ghana. The programme is implemented by Sinapi Aba Savings and Loans, a non-bank financial institution supported by the Grameen Crédit Agricole Foundation.

FINEDEV aims to improve access to finance, financial education and entrepreneurial training for small and medium enterprises (SMEs), women and vulnerable groups in Ghana. For Sinapi, the focus is on women entrepreneurship as 70% of its clients are women.

Networking and entrepreneurship training

The programme is based on two strands of action. The first is networking through events and training for women entrepreneurs. Through these meetings, participants have the opportunity to share their experience, learn about entrepreneurship and connect with other local women entrepreneurs. Since the beginning of the programme, Sinapi has organised 310 networking events and 447 trainings for more than 30 000 participants.

A second strand is the “Women Mentorship” programme. It brings together women entrepreneurs who have already received business training from Sinapi Aba, with less experienced women. Each “mentor” woman advises and supports other women entrepreneurs in building their businesses. The programme has already brought together 156 participants, including 52 mentor women and 104 coached entrepreneurs.

With FINEDEV, Sinapi is strengthening its action in favour of women’s financial inclusion in an innovative and sustainable way. Initially planned for a period of 4 years, FINEDEV has been extended for another year and is expected to end in 2022. After the official end of the project, Sinapi Aba plans to continue supporting its clients’ projects by maintaining its mentoring and networking activities for women.

[Covid-19] The Grameen Crédit Agricole Foundation in 2020

Eric Campos, Grameen Crédit Agricole Foundation

In 2020, the Foundation supported 80 microfinance institutions and social enterprises in 39 countries around the world. With the Covid-19 pandemic, the Foundation established a permanent dialogue with all the partner organisations and adapted its financial and technical support. The Foundation also coordinated with other key players of the inclusive finance sectors to develop commun solutions and better protect the microfinance institutions and their clients. Spotlight on an interview to Eric Campos, Managing Director of the Foundation, and some key figures of the activity in 2020.

The Covid-19 crisis has affected the microfinance sector around the world

Eric Campos: 2020 has been a very challenging year for the partners of the Grameen Crédit Agricole Foundation, microfinance institutions and social environmental impact enterprises. Very trying because the final beneficiaries, who are very dependent on sectors such as trade, agriculture and craft, had to deal with lockdown measures and therefore had the greatest difficulty in developing their income generating activities.

The Foundation has adapted itself to better support entrepreneurs in the field

EC: The Foundation’s teams focused on all actions that could allow these institutions, these enterprises to save time and adapt to the economic effects of this crisis. At the international level, we coordinated an agreement with international funders to avoid a liquidity crisis in the microfinance sector. At the Foundation level, we have granted a number of rollovers, we have supported institutions and enterprises by organising technical assistance missions to enable them to improve on risk management and on treasury management. We have been present throughout this year, alongside our long-standing partner institutions of the Foundation.

What prospects for 2021?

EC: In 2021, we are still in a crisis context. We are seeing some small signs of economic recovery in about a third of the countries in which the Foundation operates. In 2021, the Foundation will strengthen its technical assistance programme. We will continue to finance our partners, to support them, and we are cautious but confident in the economic recovery that we are already starting to see. Our commitment: help our partners get through this global crisis.


One Year On: What a Year of Surveys Tell Us About Covid-19 and microfinance

Maxime Borgogno, Grameen Crédit Agricole Foundation

Spotlight on the interview of Maxime Borgogno for FinDev. Maxime is Investment Manager for the Asia and Central Europe region at Grameen Crédit Agricole Foundation.

Since the beginning of the pandemic, Grameen Crédit Agricole Foundation has been monitoring how the microfinance sector is responding to the crisis caused by Covid-19. One year later, what have you learned?

Maxime Borgogno : While the immediate consequences microfinance institutions (MFIs) faced were an increase in portfolio at risk and a reduction in their portfolio, the operational crisis did not lead to a total failure of the sector as feared at the beginning. In fact, we have seen many MFIs proactively adapting to the new context: they took adequate management measures while maintaining a responsible approach with their clients. Only a small proportion of surveyed institutions had to lay off staff during the crisis, and the ones in the most affected countries have successfully transitioned to remote systems. Most MFIs implemented loan restructuring to relieve affected clients. Some, especially in Southeast Asia, provided customers with emergency kits (food, sanitary equipment, etc.). They even explored new opportunities such as digital channels for loan repayment to adapt to the situation.

In general, MFIs remain optimistic about the future, based on a good understanding of current challenges and the experience built in 2020. While the crisis is not over and there are still challenges ahead, the sector has the capacity to meet them.

What are some of the key challenges that lie ahead? Why do you think the sector has the capacity to overcome them?

MB: The situation remains unpredictable and depends on the country. A MFI may come to face significant operational constraints very quickly, which will limit its activity. The latest data shows that nearly 75% of MFIs are facing a higher risk portfolio than before the crisis. Therefore, they will have to find a balance between carefully managing this risk while continuing to disburse new loans to their clients. It is now clear that the Covid-19 crisis has disrupted certain sectors, companies’ structures and ways of doing business. MFIs will need to account for these major changes in their strategy for the coming years.

Over the past year, we have seen MFIs remain fully committed to their social mission. They have proven their resilience and capacity to adapt during an unprecedented crisis. With poverty levels increasing due to the crisis, the mission of microfinance is more relevant than ever.

How did you monitor the situation over the past year?

MB: We launched the first monthly survey in March 2020 with 75 MFIs we support. The objective was to gather first impressions on the situation as well as the potential impact on their activities and their clients. In June 2020, we joined forces with ADA and Inpulse to expand the reach of the survey to more than 100 MFIs, including in Latin America and the Caribbean, where the Foundation does not have a presence. Since September, we have moved towards a quarterly format to avoid overloading the institutions in a period of resumption of their activities. The next survey will be in March.

The survey results, as well as other articles related to the Covid-19 crisis, are available on The Covid-19 Observatory, a space created by the Foundation at the onset of the pandemic.

Microfinance institutions often don’t have the capacity to respond to surveys, especially when they have a major crisis to deal with. What helped you to continue gathering data among them?

MB: From the very beginning, we chose not to ask MFIs detailed financial information, but rather to gather their impressions and observations on the impact of the crisis. We deliberately kept the number of questions low and made sure they were as clear as possible. We also avoided requesting the same information they send us in their regular monthly reports.

We insist on a high level of communication with our partners, so we share the results of the surveys with them as soon as they are available and remain open to their feedback in this process. Comments from our respondents have helped us to adapt the wording of the questions and the content of the questionnaire. We believe that their involvement in the process is a key motivator for our partner MFIs to continue participating in the survey.

How do you see this crisis shaping the future of microfinance? Are you worried about the future of the sector?

MB: 2020 was a historic year that demonstrated the resilience of the microfinance sector. MFIs innovated and strengthened their services to protect their clients. At the same time, lenders and other stakeholders coordinated among themselves to adopt the most suitable measures to support MFIs. The last survey we conducted on the impact of the Covid-19 crisis reveals that most institutions expect their activity to grow in 2021, in terms of both portfolio volume and number of clients.

However, many of the most affected institutions will need support from their shareholders and lenders. As credit risk gradually translates into losses in 2021, the responsiveness of investors will be fundamental and is a forthcoming topic for the Foundation’s Covid-19 Observatory.

The crisis is not yet behind us, but we are encouraged for the future of the sector. Digital transformation, coordination between stakeholders and innovation will be essential to strengthen the resilience and impact of microfinance.

Source: FinDev

SSNUP programme finances its first agricultural project in Senegal


To support small-scale farmers, the Swiss Agency for Development and Cooperation and the Luxembourg Directorate for Development Cooperation and Humanitarian Action, under the coordination of ADA, have launched the SSNUP (Smallholder Safety Net Upscaling Programme). With a budget of €55 million over 10 years, the programme aims to sustainably strengthen the safety nets of smallholder farmers in Africa, Latin America and Asia by stimulating the development of agricultural value chains.

The programme draws on the technical assistance knowledge and expertise of impact investment funds already active in this area. The Grameen Crédit Agricole Foundation is one of the impact investors in charge of the SSNUP implementation. It will provide its expertise in technical assistance to the organisations it supports – microfinance institutions and social enterprises– in order to design and develop financial and non-financial solutions for agricultural risks mitigation and transfer of the different value chain actors.

An impact agricultural project in Senegal

The first organisation supported by the Foundation within the programme is SFA (Sénégalaise des Filières Alimentaires), a social enterprise that works for the development of an inclusive rice value chain in Senegal. Created in 2013, SFA produces white rice from paddy cultivated by small producers in the Senegal River Valley. It provides them with technical support through training on best agricultural practices and facilitates their access to the market and to financing by putting them in relation with local lenders.

Despite the technical support provided by SFA, the small-scale producers’ yields remained below their potential. This is mainly because farmers are still reluctant to implement the agricultural practices promoted by SFA without experiencing their positive effects first.

The SSNUP will strengthen this technical support for producers through a technical assistant mission with a budget of €11,000. This 6-month project aims to create 20 demonstration fields in SFA’s operation areas, in which best agricultural practices will be implemented. These reference fields will allow training some sixty producers on the best practices to optimise their production and to demonstrate to all producers in the area the positive impacts of these practices on agricultural yields and production quality. Exchange sessions and training led by the trained producers will enable them to share their learning with over 2,000 small-scale producers.

The expected results of this project are based on 3 pillars: capacity building of the trained farmers; increasing production and its quality for the trained farmers; increasing the income of the trained farmers and their households. This high impact project will contribute directly to the rice value chain development and food security in Senegal.


Survey on the financial inclusion of people with disabilities in Cambodia

In Cambodia, at least 10% of the population have some form of disability, and are often victims of social and economic exclusion and stigma. Strengthening their ability to use financial services can contribute to breaking the cycle between disability and poverty. In this context, a study was carried out by Chamroeun Microfinance Plc and Good return to better understand the needs and obstacles faced by people with disabilities in accessing financial services.

The results of the study show the link between disability and exclusion and the still untapped opportunities to break this cycle. Indeed, while only 30% of the 513 respondents have used financial services, over 50% are considering a future loan, mainly for entrepreneurial activities, and 90% see the benefits in attending financial education training.

This study will help structure the “Education & Access: Responsible Service for People with Disabilities” project under the Australia-Cambodia Cooperation for Equitable Sustainable Services (ACCESS) Programme which aims to improve access for people with disabilities to responsible finance.

Supported by the Grameen Crédit Agricole Foundation since 2010, Chamroeun Microfinance Plc is a Cambodian microfinance institution that provides financial services to the poorest populations and also offers them training and support services. It now serves nearly 43,000 clients, 81% of whom are women and 65% of whom live in rural areas.

Access the study here


The impact of Credit Agricole’s FIR Fund in 2020

FIR (the Fund for Inclusive Finance in Rural Areas) is a Crédit Agricole impact fund which promotes financial inclusion in developing countries by financing rural microfinance institutions. As at 31 December 2020, FIR registered subscriptions from 21 Regional Banks , Amundi and CA Assurances for a total of €9.75 million, supporting 5 microfinance institutions that serve nearly 80,000 low-income people in Africa, Asia and Europe.

In 2020, due to the Covid-19 crisis, a close follow-up was carried out with the organisations financed by the FIR in order to adjust the support to each organisation. Among the measures, an international coalition was created, at the initiative of the Grameen Crédit Agricole Foundation -FIR’s advisor-, to protect microfinance institutions and their clients against the consequences of the crisis.

Around thirty investors and key players of the sector, including CA Indosuez Wealth (Asset Management) -FIR’s manager-, have committed themselves to this coalition and are coordinating the granting of maturity extensions, technical assistance and information sharing in order to avoid a liquidity crisis in the sector and strengthen the resilience of microfinance institutions in this complex period.

The full report is available here (in French)


(*) Crédit Agricole Assurance, Amundi et 21 Caisses régionales (Alpes Provence, Alsace-Vosges, Brie Picardie, Centre-est, Centre-France, Centre Loire, Centre-Ouest, Champagne-Bourgogne, Charente-Périgord, Finistère, Franche-Comté, Ille-et-Vilaine, Languedoc, Loire-Haute Loire, Martinique-Guyane, Normandie-Seine, Provence Côte-d’Azur, Réunion, Savoie, Sud Rhône Alpes et Touraine Poitou).

New Solidarity Bankers missions available to Crédit Agricole employees

Launched in 2018 by the Grameen Crédit Agricole Foundation and Crédit Agricole S.A, Solidarity Bankers is a skills volunteering programme open to Crédit Agricole Group employees in favour of microfinance institutions and social impact enterprises supported by the Foundation. Two new online missions are to be filled in favour of microfinance institutions in Moldova and Palestine.


There are two types of missions: missions abroad and online missions. They can take place during the employee’s working time (sponsored by the employer of the Solidarity Banker) AND / OR during vacation (volunteering).

Between 2018 and 2020, 20 missions were launched, of which 13 were carried out and seven are in progress, both as skills-based sponsorship and volunteering missions. This is a great success, which demonstrates the commitment of employees and the Group to support projects with a social impact.


A first “digital / IT” mission is available to support Smart Credit, a microfinance institution funded by the Grameen Crédit Agricole Foundation in Moldova. The mission of the Solidarity Banker will be to help build the digital strategy of Smart Credit. The selected Crédit Agricole expert will work remotely and devote the equivalent of one day per week, for 15 weeks, to the mission. Smart Credit provides financial services to socially disadvantaged people and small entrepreneurs in Moldova. The institution has over 3,000 active borrowers (54% of women and 69% of clients living in rural areas) and manages a portfolio of €4.4 million.

A second “financial management” mission is to be filled in favour of FATEN, a microfinance institution located in Palestine. The Crédit Agricole expert will support FATEN in updating financial procedures, policies and tools. He / She will work remotely one day a week, for 15 weeks. FATEN provides financial services to low-income Palestinian entrepreneurs and individuals. In December 2020, the institution served 26,244 active borrowers (34% of women and 68% of rural clients) and managed a portfolio of €108 million.


Submit your application on the CA Solidaires website here.


Carolina VIGUET
Head of Communication & Partnerships