African Facility: technical assistance in favor of ACFIME

© Didier Gentilhomme

In 2013, the Grameen Crédit Agricole Foundation created the “African Facility” technical assistance programme funded by the Agence française de développement (AFD).

This programme launched 9 years ago and ending in December 2021 enabled to carry out 326 technical assistance missions in favor of 26 partners of the Foundation for a total amount of 3,52 mln euros in grants.

Feedback on the programme with the testimony of Gaston Assagwe, ACFIME’s Executive Director.

ACFIME (Agence Communautaire pour le Financement de la Micro Entreprise) is a Tier 3 microfinance institution (loan portfolio < 10 million USD) in Burkina Faso. At the end of December 2020, the institution served 21,504 clients with outstanding loans of € 1.9 million. It offers credit and savings products mostly to women (90%) living in rural areas (90%).

Within the technical assistance programme of the African Facility, the consultant Pierre Houssou supported the institution in the development of a risk map adapted to its challenges and its development strategy.

Why was developing a risk map important for ACFIME?

ACFIME was created in 2007 and developed its activities on a national level with three branches and seven service points. Since the creation, it implemented an internal audit service to ensure control of the institution’s operations and anticipate risks. Within the African Facility programme, the institution was supported by Pierre Houssou in the development of a risk map. Today, the periodic monitoring of the mapping makes it possible to monitor the evolution of the risk and to quickly take measures to fix it.

What did you expect from the consultant? Did the results meet your expectations ?

How to detect a risk, how to analyze it, how to measure its importance in a sustainable and viable way for the institution? Thanks to this mission, the internal audit department was first trained on the concept of risks and the development of a plan to mitigate them. As risks can be found in each position and each procedure or process, everyone’s collaboration was essential to achieve the second objective of the mission: the development of a risk map. The participatory approach used by Pierre Houssou (individual questions and answers, focus group, votes, plenary sessions, etc.) enabled each member of ACFIME to be an actor in this great work of reflection and analysis.

What is your review of this mission and how could it have been improved? 

The mission could have been extended but the result is very positive. At the end of the mission a risk management committee was set up within ACFIME to update the map independently. We now have a precise mapping adapted to financial, operational and strategic risks, as well as efficient management tools. The annual internal audit plan is also based on this mapping to develop ACFIME.

How has this mapping helped you better manage risk during the Covid-19 crisis?

 Since the implementation of this mapping, the risks identified have been subject to a mitigation plan which enabled to prevent and reduce existing risks. In the context of the Covid-19 crisis, the mapping helped ACFIME to turn to local financial partners, such as the State of Burkina Faso, to cope with the drying up of international funding due to travel restrictions and global health restrictions.

 

 

 

SOLIDARITY BANKERS : TWO “DIGITAL STRATEGY” MISSIONS TO BE FILLED

 

©GODONG

Solidarity Bankers is a skills volunteering programme launched by the Foundation and Crédit Agricole S.A. in 2018. The programme has a twofold objective: on the one hand, support microfinance institutions and social impact enterprises financed by the Foundation with technical assistance, and on the other hand, enhance the skills of Group employees who want to invest themselves in projects with high social impact.

Missions can take place during the Solidarity Banker’s working time and/or during holidays (volunteering).

Currently two “digital strategy” missions are to be filled online or on the field :

  • Field mission in favor of Smart Credit (Moldova)

Smart Credit is a microfinance institution created in 2010 by 5 local professionals having one same vision: providing financial services to socially disadvantaged people and small entrepreneurs in Moldova. The institution has more than 3,000 active borrowers and manages a portfolio of 4.4 million euros.

The Solidarity Banker will be in charge of helping to build the digital strategy of Smart Crédit. The expert is an employee of the Crédit Agricole Group who is fluent in English and has experience in IT project management.

For more information, download the term sheet on ca-solidaires.fr  

  • Field or online mission in favor of OXUS (Kyrgyzstan)

OXUS Kyrgyzstan (OKG) is a microfinance institution that provides financial services to the working poor and under-banked in Kyrgyzstan. The institution serves 8,000 active borrowers and manages a portfolio of EUR 6.4 million.

The selected Crédit Agricole expert will support OKG in the evaluation of its digitalization processes and in the construction of a new digital strategy. The Solidarity Banker must have significant experience in IT project management. Fluency in English is mandatory and speaking Russian is an asset.

For more information, download the term sheet on ca-solidaires.fr  

To apply : send your CV and cover letter (or a few lines explaining why you are interested in the mission) to :

 

[TESTIMONY] : A SOLIDARITY BANKER IN CAMBODIA

©Philippe Lissac/GODONG

Launched by the Grameen Crédit Agricole Foundation and Crédit Agricole SA in June 2018, Solidarity Bankers is a skills volunteering programme aimed at all Crédit Agricole group employees for the benefit of microfinance institutions or impact businesses supported by the Grameen Crédit Agricole Foundation.

Read the interview with Jean-Baptiste Bounes, SODICA’s Solidarity Banker, who carried out an online mission in favour of Phare Performing Social Enterprise (PPSE) between 2020 and 2021.

 The fight against poverty through entrepreneurship

Eric Campos presented the Grameen Crédit Agricole Foundation, and more specifically the Solidarity Bankers programme, during a CACIF corporate plenary session in December 2019. I was immediately seduced by the poverty reduction missions through the promotion of entrepreneurship with social impact and inclusive finance in developing countries. I contacted the Foundation to be informed of the various Solidarity Bankers missions to be filled in order to apply to a mission in line with my skills and motivations.

After having several interviews conducted by the Foundation team, I was selected to advise PPSE in Cambodia in its fundraising strategy .

The proposed assignment fully met my expectations: to be able to use my skills for the benefit of a project with a strong social impact in a difficult context linked to Covid-19;; discover a new culture and get out of my professional comfort zone.

The challenge of this mission was to be able to successfully collaborate remotely over a long period while maintaining intensity in the process of fundraising.

 A remote mission during a pandemic

Due to restrictions linked to the Covid-19, I participated through my intervention with PPSE to the Foundation’s first online mission of Solidarity Bankers.

Unlike the field missions which often take place over two weeks, my mission was carried out at the rate of one day per week over 15 weeks which was well suited to an operation of fundraising . This allowed me to be present alongside the manager and shareholders over the long term.

A real educational work was done during the initial discussions to ensure that the level of understanding of the various challenges was the same for each attendee .

In addition, in order to maintain close collaboration over time despite the distance, weekly updates were organised,. The upstream definition of the various stages also facilitated the smooth running of the process. This allowed the Foundation to consider new remote missions in a proper way.

Skills volunteering: an experience to be renewed

This experience was very enriching , both on a human and professionally level.

First of all, the real autonomy that was entrusted to me allowed me to ask myself the right questions, to assert myself and to gain confidence in order to complete successfully the missions on a daily basis. This experience undoubtedly marked a turning point in my professional career.

I also had the chance to work alongside a company with a strong social impact and Impact Investing funds, which was really close to my heart as I find this universe fascinating and promising.

This mission has also given me a lot on a human level. I discovered a completely different culture and made inspiring and enriching encounters.

I would particularly like to thank Dara Huot, CEO of PPSE, for his extreme generosity, kindness and trust. The investment in terms of time and workload is certainly significant, but if it had to be done again, I would do it again in a heartbeat.

 

The African Facility : technical assistance in favor of GRAINE SARL

© Didier Gentilhomme

 

In 2013, the Grameen Crédit Agricole Foundation created the “African Facility” technical assistance programme funded by the Agence française de développement (AFD).

Feedback on the programme with the testimony of Eléonore Marie Céline Compaore-Gyebre  – GRAINE’s Executive Director.

Created in 2006, GRAINE SARL is a Tier 3 microfinance institution (loan portfolio < 10 million USD). At the end of December 2020, the institution offered credit products to almost 17,926 clients, mostly women (75%) living in rural areas (66%), for a loan portfolio of €4,9mln.

Within the technical assistance programme of the African Facility, GRAINE SARL was assisted in its digitalization process. The consultant in charge of the mission, Thomas Carrié, supported the institution in the implementation of a new integrated software for managing information in the cloud, the secure migration of data and user training.

Why was the implementation of a new Information and Management System (MIS) important for GRAINE SARL?

By 2018, we had reached a level of growth that required a more efficient information management software than the one we were using. The consolidation of data and the production of reporting had become unachievable within the required timeframe. In addition, given the scope of the network (6 branches and 29 service points), we wanted to develop innovative financial products to better meet customer needs and improve our profitability. The acquisition of a new integrated software allowed us to interconnect all counters as well as the head office. Thanks to this tool we have a consolidated view of the information collected in the field in real time, data collection is more reliable and secure and we developed new products. 

What did you expect from the consultant? Did the results meet your expectations?

Beyond the acquisition of this new software, we needed someone familiar with the microfinance sector and the issues related to digitalization. Thomas Carrié, in tandem with Yempabou Samuel Nidjergou, based in Ouagadougou, supported us very well, from the definition of the needs to the configuration and deployment of the software. Then they allowed us to manage the data migration and user training, while respecting the deadlines! We are very satisfied of the expertise and the interpersonal skills of the consultants.

What is your review of this mission and how could it have been improved?

Before the mission, each window worked in a non-centralized way, and the MIS was cumbersome. Since everything was manual, verification was difficult and the risk of error high. In addition, the monitoring and maintenance of all the servers came at a significant cost. The centralization of data thanks to the new cloud-based MIS enables to monitor the situation of day-to-day operations and to guarantee the security and reliability of the information collected. MIS has thus saved us time, money and security. This gives us complete satisfaction today, even if the updates are sometimes faulty due to blackouts or poor internet connection in the country.

Thanks to MIS, have you improved customer satisfaction or developed new products or services?

The reliability of the information is now optimal, and we have 90% customer satisfaction. The new MIS has enabled us to offer new local services such as the digitalization of the tontine collection (daily collection of savings), the implementation of SMS Banking and the possibility to make loan disbursements or deposits regardless of the point of service. We want to strengthen the digitalization of information collection. To do this, we will equip our agents with digital tablets so that they can record, in the field, all information concerning potential customers.

 

 

The Foundation, contributes to the 1st edition of the Impact Finance Barometer

 

The Grameen Crédit Agricole Foundation is a partner of the first edition of the Impact Finance Barometer launched at the Global Forum Zero Exclusion, Zero Carbon, Zero Poverty on September 2, 2021. This publication, coordinated by Convergences, is the result of the collective work of impact finance experts, analysts, investors and microfinance institutions. It confronts different visions of impact investing and financial inclusion in the world.

Under the theme “Financing social and environmental transitions”, this Barometer presents key figures of the sector and the levers for the development of inclusive finance that serves people and the planet. How to redirect funding towards an impact project? How to connect investors and project leaders? Is there a common metric of impact?

This edition also deals with financial inclusion in the face of the Covid-19 crisis and more specifically with the impact of this crisis on microfinance institutions.

Edouard Sers, Head of Risk, Compliance and Impact at the Foundation spoke on this subject during the 3Zero Global Forum:

“The Covid-19 crisis has had a significant impact on microfinance institutions (MFIs) partner of the Grameen Crédit Agricole Foundation. This impact however varies depending on the region and countries affected. The two main financial consequences of the crisis are an increased credit risk, which affects profitability (especially in 2020) and therefore, has an impact on equity. At the beginning of the year, 60% of the MFIs surveyed thought they needed new equity. In mid-2021, the latest surveys we conducted show that one in five MFIs are still looking for a way to recapitalize properly. In contrast, there has not been a generalized liquidity crisis and, despite the loss of profitability for many, the sector has shown overall responsibility in maintaining jobs. In order to support its partners, the Foundation continues to develop its funding and technical assistance offer. It also shares on a regular basis the conclusions of its Covid-19 Observatory based on surveys carried out in partnership with ADA and Inpulse to collect the feelings of actors in the field.”

Discover the Barometer here.

Discover the Report of the Grameen Crédit Agricole Foundation : “The impact of the Covid-19 crisis on microfinance institutions. Analyses and perspectives.

The Foundation supports the financial inclusion of refugees

© Didier Gentilhomme

Since 2019, the Swedish International Development Cooperation Agency (Sida), the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) and the Grameen Crédit Agricole Foundation have joined forces to support refugee populations in Uganda.

The Foundation was selected by the Swedish International Development Cooperation Agency (Sida) and the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) for the design and coordination of an innovative programme in order to improve livelihoods, resilience and financial inclusion of refugees and host communities in Uganda.

Hanadi Tutunji, Financial Inclusion Officer at UNHCR reports on this joint four-year financial inclusion programme.

How is financial inclusion a sustainable solution for refugees in Uganda?

Uganda is home to about 1.5 million refugees and asylum-seekers, making it the largest refugee hosting country in Africa, and third in the world. It has one of the most progressive refugee policies in the world, and is the global lead in the implementation of the Comprehensive Refugee Response Framework (CRRF) and Global Compact on Refugees (GCR). Refugees in Uganda live in settlements, which are close to the host communities, and they have access to the same social services such as health, education, water and sanitation, as well as livelihoods. They also enjoy the freedom of movement, right to work, and have been included in the country’s National development Plan III.

Uganda hosts 94 per cent of the refugees in 13 settlements located in South West and Northern part of the country. The remaining six per cent are located in urban areas around Kampala. Despite Uganda’s progressive and inclusive policies, the poverty rate among the refugee population is more than twice that of the host communities. This has a negative impact on their co-existence, and is a protection risk for both communities, especially the women, girls and persons with special needs.

In 2020, the World Food Programme reduced the food ration provided to refugees by 30 per cent, due to a reduction in their resource envelope. The effect it had on the refugees was further exasperated by the onset of COVID-19 and the impact of the countrywide lockdown thereafter. As a result of the lockdown,  13  per cent of refugees (especially those in the urban areas), lost their livelihoods, which further increased food and income insecurity.

Durable solutions are therefore needed to address both the humanitarian and development challenges Uganda faces, especially given the large number of refugees in the country.

In this regard, financial inclusion is important to promote access to resources, increase economic activity, and increase wage and self-employment opportunities. Financial and non-financial services offered to refugees help them meet their needs in a sustainable manner. Therefore, it is important to engage with the private sector and support its efforts to develop and provide tailored financial services to refugees, including access to savings, loans, insurance and remittance services.

Can you explain the specificities of the programme?

The programme aims at enhancing access to credit for refugees and the host communities, so that they can develop income-generating activities. Ultimately, the objective of the programme is to improve the  self-reliance of approximately 100,000 households among these populations.

The programme, which draws on a mix of public and private funding, has three components: a lender guarantee fund, debt financing for three microfinance institutions (MFIs) and technical assistance for MFIs and refugees.

UNHCR shares socio-economic data, facilitates access to refugees, trains MFI staff on refugee needs and protection, and oversees refugee participation in financial and business training. The Grameen Crédit Agricole Foundation, with financial support from Sida, coordinates the technical assistance component of the programme, which includes providing refugees with non-financial services, such as business training and financial education. In addition, it covers  part of the initial set-up costs incurred by the MFIs, to expand their lending operations to refugees.

Thanks to the programme, the beneficiary MFIs have been able to open new branches in the districts of Moyo (Parlorinya settlement), Yumbe (Bidibidi settlement) and Isingiro (Nakivale settlement), where many refugees live. By the end of March 2021, 14,777 loans had been granted by the MFIs, of which, 6,423 (44 per cent) were granted to refugees. In addition, 19,294 people had received training. Since the programme targets both refugees and their host communities, it facilitates links between them thus, promoting their peaceful coexistence.

What are UNHCR’s financial inclusion priorities around the world?

Refugees’ financial needs evolve over time, depending on their displacement phase, ranging from survival cash at the time of arrival, to more comprehensive services such as savings, payments, and credit in a second stage.

Financial inclusion represents a bridge from humanitarian assistance to sustainable business development. UNHCR ensures that refugees, as well as vulnerable people in host communities, have access to affordable and appropriate financial services. It also ensures that,  responsible financial service providers deliver these services.

To strengthen financial inclusion, UNHCR will expand its partnerships and encourage partners to provide sustainable services to refugees, as well as  support them in their advocacy work, to improve the regulatory framework.

[INTERVIEW] The African Facility: technical assistance in favour of MLF Zambia

© MicroLoan Foundation (Zambia)

In 2013, the Grameen Crédit Agricole Foundation created the “African Facility” technical assistance programme funded by the Agence française de développement (AFD).

This programme launched 9 years ago and ending in December 2021 enabled to carry out 326 technical assistance missions in favour of 26 partners of the Foundation for a total amount of 3,52 mln euros in grants.

Feedback on the programme with the testimony of Jack NGOMA – MLF Zambia’s Executive Director

Created in 2008, MLF Zambia is a Tier 3 microfinance institution (loan portfolio < 10 million USD). The institution offers credit products and training to a clientele of almost 23,000 women as of December 2020, in rural areas, for an outstanding loan portfolio of €830,217. Within the technical assistance programme of the African Facility, financed by the French Development Agency and coordinated by the Grameen Crédit Agricole Foundation, MLF Zambia was assisted in developing a business plan for the 2021-2025 period. The consultant in charge of the mission, Thomas Lendzian, from Tukumuka Consulting, helped the institution define its strategy and an operational action plan in order to expand to new areas and to find new funding sources.

Why was the development of a business plan important for your institution?

An external perspective was needed to analyse the microfinance market in Zambia in depth, to enable us to position ourselves clearly and to strengthen our competitiveness. In addition, we wanted to effectively communicate our long-term goals to stakeholders, including potential investors. The support of the Grameen Crédit Agricole Foundation has been very helpful at every stage of the business plan development.

What did you expect from the consultant? Did the results meet your expectations?

We were looking for a firm with a solid expertise in microfinance and experience in the field that would enable us to improve our business planning process. Thomas Lendzian, from the local consultancy firm Tukumuka Consulting, was the perfect fit and it turned out to be a very good and relevant choice. His knowledge of Zambia, and other countries in Africa, as well as his understanding of the industry trends have been very useful.

The business plan has helped us in gaining a better understanding of the local sector and in accurately defining our growth projections. We are now equipped to compete on the market and have clarified our long-term objectives. The development of this business plan has also enabled us to communicate our organisational objectives more clearly to our staff and other stakeholders, and to reach out to potential investors.

What are the priorities defined in the business plan? 

Among the strategic pillars of the five-year business plan, we aim to achieve significant growth, with the goal of serving 80,000 customers by 2025. We also want to increase our operational efficiency through a revised lending methodology using agent networks and smart technology. We will also focus on product diversification to offer flexible credit products tailored to the needs and activities of our clients – especially agriculture. With this new business plan at hand, we also hope to establish strategic partnerships with relevant investors and business partners. Finally, key objectives for MLF Zambia in the years to come will be the strengthening of our social impact, client retention and the improvement of the lives of the women we are serving.