The Foundation is committed to small agricultural enterprises

© Godong

The Council on Smallholder Agricultural Finance (CSAF) is the leading global network of lending practitioners promoting an inclusive financial market for producer organizations and small- and medium-enterprises (SMEs) in the agriculture sector. Since 2013, CSAF’s 16 members and affiliates have provided $5B in lending to agricultural SMEs providing market access for 3.4M smallholder farmers across 65 countries in Africa, Asia, and Latin America.

After becoming a CSAF affiliate in June 2020, the Grameen Crédit Agricole Foundation pursues its commitment in 2021 by participating in the construction of a Memorandum of Understanding (MoU) in order to provide clearer principles and protocols for loan restructuring and workouts.

The need for a MOU  

Increased co-operation by CSAF members has generated positive collaboration between lenders, resulting in additional funds and technical assistance for the borrowers. In some cases, however, there has been a lack of coordination with sub-optimal outcomes for lenders and borrowers alike. The Covid-19 crisis has increased the need for clearer principles for loan restructuring and workouts.

Collective work

CSAF members organized several Workshops in March 2021 in order to focus and develop explicit expectations for loan workouts. Following these Workshops, a Workouts Working Group (WWG) has been established to develop basic principles, outlined in the MoU, that members can follow during loan restructurings and workouts. The Grameen Crédit Agricole Foundation has been a contributor to this reflection and the “Key principles to protect microfinance institutions and their clients in the Covid-19 crisis” Pledge has been a useful resource.

 

Download the MoU here.

 

Notebook of a Solidarity Banker in Kyrgyzstan

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 enterprises supported by the Grameen Crédit Agricole Foundation. Andreas Brunner, Solidarity Banker of Crédit Agricole Assurances, carried out a field mission in favour of Oxus Kyrgyzstan in October 2021.

Testimony of Andreas Brunner, Supervisor Internal Audit, Crédit Agricole Assurances

A social commitment in favor of financial inclusion

From my beginnings at Crédit Agricole (14 years ago!), I have been sensitive to the solidarity actions offered by the group. I first discovered the Solidarity Bankers program when a colleague shared the call for applications for a mission in marketing. He once carried out a Solidarity Bankers mission in Africa and his feedback motivated me. I therefore applied in October 2019 for this marketing mission in favor of OXUS, a microfinance institution in Kyrgyzstan. After several interviews, I got selected for the mission. It fully met my expectations: to put my skills at the service of a solidarity project and discover a new culture and activity. My mission was initially scheduled for March 2020 and we believed in it … until the lockdown. Then another attempt in April 2021 which again resulted in a postponement. Finally, I left in October 2021.

Preparation of the mission

My mission in favor of OXUS Kyrgyzstan had two main components: the definition of an annual marketing plan and the creation of a loyalty program to increase the retention rate of their customers. Several interviews with the teams of the Grameen Crédit Agricole Foundation and OXUS allowed me to better assess and understand the challenges and objectives of the mission. In order to prepare my visit in the field, I analyzed documents about the institution’s strategy and the microfinance market in Kyrgyzstan before departure. I also had a long discussion with an employee of the main shareholder of OXUS, the NGO ACTED. Once my schedule was defined, nothing left but to go!

In the footsteps of the Silk Road

I have to admit: I didn’t know much about this beautiful Central Asian country, not even its capital. In addition to the documentation I read before my departure, the long flight was a good opportunity to review the geography and learn more about the history of the country.

Arrival in Istanbul, the airport reminds me of the crowds before the Covid-19 crisis and I feel like I am on the Silk Road. After a second 5 hour flight, I finally arrive in Bishkek (IATA code: FRU, for connoisseurs) where I am welcomed by the Managing Director himself! First stone of our friendship.

Two weeks of intense work followed: interviews, agency visits, analyzes … Time flies by but I can count on the availability of my interlocutors. The exchanges are done mainly in English, but I am happy to be able to exchange a few words in Russian, which helps me not only during interviews but also at the restaurant. I spent the second week of the mission finalizing my deliverables (strategic and tactical analyzes, annual plan, loyalty program and practical tools for teams) and testing my proposals. It was also an opportunity to discuss with the OXUS teams on the work they will have to carry out in the coming months. Thanks to the support of the CEO and the Board of Directors, I am leaving confident that they will be able, on the one hand, to carry out a large number of actions planned in the 2022 marketing plan, and on the other hand, to implement their new loyalty program.

An unprecedented human experience

Above all, I remember a warm welcome and meeting great people. The Kyrgyz people taught me a lot to their culture and showed great hospitality. I was able to discover the capital with its history, its architecture, its Russian heritage. An excursion organized over the weekend allowed me to get to know this country better with its yurts, its cuisine, its agriculture, its petroglyphs, its huge salt lake at an altitude of 1600m, and above all, its high mountains towering at more than 7000m and surrounding the city.

 

I would like to thank the CEO of OXUS Kyrgyzstan, Denis Khomyakov, for his generosity and his trust, the entire team of the Grameen Crédit Agricole Foundation for the support (Carolina Viguet, Cécile Delhomme, Julie Serret, Philippe Guichandut), Aurélie Cacciotti of Crédit Agricole SA for the logistics as well as all the people of Crédit Agricole Assurances who have contributed to make this mission possible.

 

[INTERVIEW] Humo, a beneficiary of the Solidarity Bankers programme

© EBRD

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.

HUMO is a microfinance institution in Tajikistan, which aims to support vulnerable and underserved populations living in rural areas through financial and advisory services for small businesses. Julien Leroy, Innovation Leader at CA-CIB accompanied the institution in the transformation of its business.

Feedback on the programme with the interview of Firdavs Mayunusov, Finance Officer at HUMO.

1) Why was the optimization of your business model important for your institution?

The financial sector has long been one of the most conservative and non-digitalized industries in the world. Experience shows that the introduction of innovations and new technologies dramatically increases competitiveness and improves customer experience. However, for the development of innovations and cutting-edge solutions, it is important to reengineer the business model and organizational structure.

17 years ago, Humo was launched to improve access to finance and social development in Tajikistan. Today, the requirements for financial products are changing rapidly. It is important to constantly evolve and transform into a tech company, not just a financial institution. This is the key to reaching the mission and unlocking the potential of the region. Therefore, we have begun the digital transformation and are making the company structure more flexible and product-oriented.

2) What did you expect from the Solidarity Banker? Do the results match your expectations?

Humo expected advice and guidance on business transformation. Thanks to Solidarity Bankers, we were able not only to understand our weaknesses, but also to find new opportunities for growth and reinforce business model. Now, two years later, we have implemented most of the recommendations and started digital transformation. We were able to take a fresh look at the business model and develop a transformation strategy. The results exceeded expectations.

3) What were the priorities defined following the recommendations made?

We thought about the role of innovation and organizational change for business development. The company must be more flexible and faster to compete in the market. First of all, we opened a new Product Department to manage cutting-edge financial solutions. Then we began to rethink the customer experience and opened a Sales Department. Finally started digital transformation and implemented agile methodologies. This made it possible to become one of the most technological players on the market.

4) 2 years and a bunch of Covid-19 waves later, what is the major mark the Solidarity Banker left at Humo? 

Over the years, Humo has changed the organizational structure, strengthened the business model, and identified opportunities. Optimized core business processes and minimized bureaucracy. The company has become more agile, strategy-focused and has launched several digital products. We attracted new user segments and became one of the leading FinTech in Tajikistan. Thanks to the Solidarity Banker, Humo was able to choose the right path of development and realize the potential for growth. Today Humo is undisputedly one of the recognized market leaders despite the challenges of Covid-19, legislation, and socio-economic development.

 

 

SOLIDARITY BANKERS: THREE MISSIONS TO BE FILLED WITH THE FOUNDATION’S PARTNERS

© Didier Gentilhomme

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, three missions are to be filled in the field (field missions last 2 weeks and are organized in accordance with the rules for international travel enacted by the Crédit Agricole group):

  • “Digital Strategy” 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.

  • « Marketing » mission for Lazika Capital (Georgia)

 Lazika Capital is a microfinance institution created in 2000 by Oxfam Great Britain in Georgia. Its mission is to facilitate access to financial services for low and middle income entrepreneurs. Lazika Capital is among the leaders in the Georgian microfinance sector and has nearly 14,000 clients.

The mission will take place in pairs. The selected Solidarity Banker will be responsible for evaluating the organization’s actions and marketing strategy as well as developing a marketing plan for the end of 2021/2022. A first Solidarity Banker was selected for the mission; we are now looking for her partner. Junior profiles accepted.

For more information, download the term sheet.

  • “AML-CFT” mission in favor of SEF (South Africa)

SEF is a microfinance institution that was established in 1992. Its mission is to “work aggressively towards the elimination of
poverty by reaching the poor and very poor with a range of financial and non-financial services to enable them to realize their potential”. As of December 2020, the institution serves 225 317 active borrowers (100% women and 100% in rural areas) and manages a portfolio of € 45 153 765.

The selected Solidarity Banker will be responsible for analyzing the environment, the regulatory framework and the AML-CFT risks that SEF faces, updating the procedure and leading training on the risks and AML-CFT prevention devices. At least 5 years of experience in compliance is required.

For more information, download the term sheet.

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

THE FOUNDATION IS ONE OF THE 10 WINNERS OF THE GEF CHALLENGE PROGRAMME FOR ADAPTATION INNOVATION

© Didier Gentilhomme

The Grameen Crédit Agricole Foundation is one of the 10 winners of the Global Environment Facility (GEF) Challenge Programme for Adaptation Innovation, a competition that provides seed funding for innovative initiatives designed to help vulnerable countries cope with the worsening climate crisis.

The GEF Challenge: Supporting innovations to cope with climate change

The GEF Challenge Programme for Adaptation Innovation catalyzes innovation and private sector action in support of vulnerable populations. Open to direct submission from technology and private sector innovators, this Challenge Programme supports models for scalable and bankable climate adaption solutions for adapting to the adverse impacts of climate change.

The GEF has announced 10 new winners, out of 418 submissions, of its Challenge Programme for Adaptation Innovation. Each winning concept will be eligible to receive grants from the GEF-hosted Special Climate Change Fund and Least Developed Countries Fund, which have provided, over the past 20 years, targeted financing for climate resilience projects in developing and low-income countries.

The Grameen Crédit Agricole Foundation’s project

Little public and private financing exists today for climate change adaptation and biodiversity conservation, especially for the inclusive finance sector. One of the main reasons for this is that the sector lacks common framework and indicators to assess the opportunity of Financial Service Providers (FSPs) to develop and scale up this type of offer.

In coordination with five other institutes, including its partner YAPU Solutions, the Foundation aims to provide public and private actors with common intervention frameworks, indicators and specific products to help them coordinate their methodology, activities and propose a concrete offer. This will enable FSPs to receive financial, technical and technological support to accompany the adaptation to climate change and biodiversity conservation for their clients, especially the most vulnerable: small producers and rural communities.

The approach draws on existing and proven UNEP Microfinance for Ecosystems Based Adaptation (MEbA) project methodologies and the Green Index 3.0 of the Green Inclusive and Climate Smart Finance Action Group (GICSF AG). The scope is to support FSPs to monitor and improve the climate change resilience and biodiversity impacts of their institution and their clients. The present project builds on these preliminary experiences and it aims to roll-out this approach for the benefit of the full inclusive finance sector.

“Initially, the Foundation will set up a blended finance vehicle and pilot this triple assistance programme (financial, technical and technological) with four microfinance institutions. We then want to engage other actors to use this vehicle and the proposed tools. It’s fully part of our strategy to support our partners to strengthen their adaptation to climate change in serving smallholders and rural communities.” – Eric Campos, Managing Director, Grameen Crédit Agricole Foundation.

Download the press release 

A Solidarity Banker in Tajikistan

Solidarity Banker – OXUS Tajikistan ©Olivier Mancini

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. Olivier Mancini, Crédit Agricole du Languedoc’s Solidarity Banker, carried out a field mission in favour of Oxus Tajikistan (OTJ) in September 2021.

Testimony of Olivier Mancini, Head of Collection Processes, Crédit Agricole du Languedoc.

An unfailing motivation

I discovered the Solidarity Banker programme through a call for applications launched by the Grameen Crédit Agricole Foundation at the end of 2019 on the creditagricole.info website. The offered mission, in favor of Oxus, a microfinance institution in Tajikistan, caught my attention and motivated an initial contact.

After a rewarding experience in Zimbabwe in 2018 as part of a solidarity leave I wanted to invest myself again in volunteer assignments or training missions with adults, preferably abroad. Immersion in a new context, the discovery of a different culture and the opportunity to practice a foreign language strengthened my motivation as much as the desire to share my knowledge.

When the mission in favor of Oxus was launched early 2020, I did not hesitate to apply! As the objective of the mission matched with my activity, my application caught their attention. I then carried out several interviews with the Foundation’s teams before being definitively selected. That was without taking Covid-19 into account: impossible to avoid the postponement of the mission. Never mind, it would leave me plenty of time to prepare the field mission upstream.

Mission preparation

Created in 2006, at the initiative of ACTED and following the adoption in Tajikistan of laws on microfinance, Oxus Tajikistan (OTJ) is a microcredit organization which grants loans mainly to micro entrepreneurs and farmers in rural areas. Partner of the Grameen Crédit Agricole Foundation since 2012, OTJ aims to improve the economic and social conditions of low-income populations excluded from the traditional banking system.

The objective of the mission was to review the valuation process for different types of guarantees and to consider the introduction of additional valuation methods in order to be as close as possible to best practices in this area. To achieve this result, the mission had to be well framed and prepared before joining the teams in the field. So I learned about the principles of microfinance and I studied the internal documentation of the institution in order to acquaint myself with their procedures. I have also spoken many times with OTJ and the Foundation to best formulate the expectations of the mission.

Once the terms of reference were finalised and the health situation improved, I only had 5,000 km to go and 18 hours of flight left to achieve the mission!

In the direction of Tajikistan

I arrived at 3:00 am in Dushanbe and was welcomed by Bakhtyior. I immediately had to cope with the language barrier: I don’t speak (unfortunately) Russian nor Tajik, but thanks to a few words shared in English, we managed to communicate on the essentials.

The next morning, meeting with Vantasho, Chief Executive Officer, then with the managers of the various divisions to get a better understanding of the conduct of activities. I was also able to speak with beneficiaries to discuss with them the requests for financing and the characteristics of the goods offered as collateral. The documentation and information collected on site, in addition to the documents studied previously, enabled me to construct and submit my recommendations to Vatansho. With its validation, I continued the work started with Umedjon, Chief Risk Officer, and Shurhat, Chief Financial Officer, to establish the foundations of a new methodology for valuing guarantees and then providing the elements supporting this new method to be implemented.

The mission in the field lasted 10 days, which was sufficient to meet the terms of reference of the mission and develop the supports necessary for the implementation of the recommendations planned a few weeks after my departure. In this perspective, the mission will continue remotely for a few days of support in order to provide additional insight and vision on the implementation modalities and assessment of the relevance of the methodology.

An unforgettable experience

This experience undoubtedly exceeded my expectations, both on a human and professional level.

Confronted, over a short period, with the expressed desire to fulfill the objectives of the mission in order to provide concrete and appropriate responses, I was able to count on the great availability of all OTJ employees regardless of their function. I was also able to rely on the expression of a mutual critical look in a real spirit of openness by my main interlocutors. The co-construction of the offered solutions was very rewarding, especially since it was necessary to achieve the same requirement in terms of consistency and solidity of the recommendations as in my professional activity, but with clearly fewer external facilitating tools. It is thus a real satisfaction to have been able to contribute to the evolution of the organization’s practices with OTJ team.

Obviously, and despite the short stay, the human experience is unforgettable thanks to their hospitality. The (many) moments of conviviality were real opportunities for sharing. It allowed me to learn more about the history of Central Asia, Tajikistan and even their personal history. I would do it all over again with great pleasure. I keep the precious memory of people who greet with their hand on their heart but who also are big-hearted.

I would particularly like to thank the people of Crédit Agricole du Languedoc who supported my project; to Caroline Brandt, Carolina Viguet, Cécile Delhomme from the Grameen Crédit Agricole Foundation who made this mission possible; to Aurélie Cacciotti of Crédit Agricole SA for logistical support; and of course to Vatansho Vatanshoev, CEO of OTJ, and Umedjon shodiev, Head of Risks, Shurhat Zoidoc,CFO, as well as to all the OTJ teams for their help and welcome, with a special greeting to Bakhtyior and Yosuman.