Solidarity Notebooks: a Solidarity Banker in Kosovo

Launched by the Grameen Crédit Agricole Foundation and Crédit Agricole SA in June 2018, Solidarity Bankers is a skills volunteering programme open to all Crédit Agricole group employees for the benefit of  microfinance institutions or impact enterprises supported by the Grameen Crédit Agricole Foundation. Discover the testimony of Stéphanie Thibesard, Solidarity Banker of CACEIS Bank, Luxembourg Branch who carried out a risk management mission in Kosovo, in favour of the microfinance institution AFK.

What prompted you to apply for a Solidarity Banker mission?

I was familiar with the Grameen Crédit Agricole Foundation but not with the Solidarity Bankers programme that it offers to employees of the Crédit Agricole group. I discovered it during the broadcast of the podcast of a solidarity banker, Andreas Brunner, who shared his own experience. I admit that I completely recognised myself in what he was describing. I therefore consulted the “catalogue” of the Foundation to see the various missions offered. The mission at AFK in Kosovo matched my experience at CACEIS Bank Luxembourg Branch. So it seemed obvious to me that I had to apply, for several reasons: it allowed me to discover a business sector I was not familiar with (microfinance), to share my knowledge, experiences and skills (support and contribution to the improvement of a system) , it offered me a unique human experience (acting for others but also with others), it represented a new personal challenge and it was a unique opportunity to get out of my comfort zone!

To what extent is this mission relevant and enriching for your work within CACEIS?

As part of this technical assistance mission on behalf of AFK, we worked on setting up a mapping of operational risks, which until then had not existed within the MFI. This offered me the opportunity to share my knowledge on operational risks and more particularly on the mapping of these risks, to then work on a template adapted to the activities of the institution, both simple and functional, but above all effective (which can be enriched during subsequent reviews and according to AFK’s needs). This exercise allowed me to refocus on the essentials of a mapping, namely to identify the major risks linked to an activity in order to be able to remedy them through action plans. I realised that by sometimes wanting to enrich or expand it too much (both in terms of indicators and granularity), the cartography sometimes tends to lose in terms of readability.

What does this opportunity represent for you from a personal point of view?

Above all, this opportunity represents an incredible human experience! I met in Kosovo and in particular in the AFK teams, very welcoming people, available but also transparent in their communication (important for the smooth running of the mission). The discussions were really constructive and very enriching. I also discovered a culture: the recent history of this country and its reconstruction, a way of life and customs, a sense of hospitality, a geographical and economic environment… During this immersion I also observed a real faculty of resilience among the Kosovars. I think that we necessarily come back different from this kind of mission.

Would you be interested in new technical assistance assignments on behalf of the Grameen Credit Agricole Foundation?

Without a doubt ! If a new mission of this type is to be filled, I would certainly apply! But I still think that such an experience should be experienced by as many people as possible. I can therefore only encourage the group’s employees to embark on a Solidarity Bankers mission.


I warmly thank the Management of CACEIS Bank, Luxembourg Branch (Philippe Bourgues, Country Managing Director and Dominique Lapierre, Deputy Managing Director) as well as Human Resources (Anne-Catherine Loiseau and Pauline Duburquoy) for their support for this project. Thanks also to Séverine Pierret (ROCP Management) for her availability and sound advice, particularly during the mission preparation phase. And of course a very special thank you to the AFK teams (represented by Vahdet Anadolli, CEO and Xhevdet Spahija, COO) for their warm welcome as well as for the excellent conditions for carrying out this mission.

Discover the Solidarity Banker missions to be filled.

The Foundation, UNHCR and Sida continue to join forces to ensure financial inclusion for refugees in Uganda

Since 2019, the Grameen Credit Agricole Foundation, the Swedish International Development and Cooperation Agency (Sida) and the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) have joined forces to support refugee populations in Uganda through an innovative programme whose objective is to improve the livelihoods, resilience and financial inclusion of refugees but also host communities.

Uganda hosts approximately 1.5 million refugees and asylum seekers, making it the first host country in Africa, and the third in the world. It is one of the countries with the most progressive reception policies in the world, and one of the leading countries for the implementation of the Global Action Framework for Refugees (CRRF) and the “Global Compact on Refugees” (GCR). In Uganda, refugees are free to circulate, have the right to work, and have been included in the country’s National Development Plan III. They obtain a piece of land, live in camps close to host communities and have access to the same national public services, in terms of health, education, access to water, livelihoods and services. sanitation.

A large majority of refugees (94%) live in 13 camps, located in the South West and North of the country. The remaining 6% live in urban areas, near Kampala. Despite Uganda’s progressive and inclusive policies, the poverty rate of refugees is nearly twice that of host communities, creating challenges for the peaceful coexistence of communities, and security issues, especially for women, girls and people with special needs.

The programme developed by the Foundation, UNHCR and Sida aims to improve access to credit and savings for refugees and their host communities so that they can develop income-generating activities. This programme, which takes advantage of mixed financing (public and private capital), comprises three components: a guarantee fund, debt financing by the Foundation for three microfinance institutions (MFIs) (Vision Fund Uganda, Brac Uganda Bank Ltd. and Ugafode) and technical assistance for MFIs and refugees. The Grameen Credit Agricole Foundation, with financial support from Sida, coordinates the programme, which also provides refugees with non-financial services such as business training and financial education.

Thanks to the programme, the MFIs supported have been able to open new branches in the districts of Moyo (Parlorinya camp), Yumbe (Bidibidi camp) and Isingiro (Nakivale camp) where many refugees live. Thus, VisionFund Uganda, a partner of the Foundation since 2020, was serving 28,739 active borrowers at the end of 2022 in the branches managed under the programme (including 20% refugees and 72% women), for an outstanding loan of 3.3 UGX billion (EUR 868,663). In the agencies concerned, major digitization work was carried out with 100% digital disbursements. The field visits carried out by the Foundation’s teams also made it possible to better understand the difficulties encountered in developing the financial inclusion of refugees: difficulties in recruiting refugee staff, various problems faced by clients (health problems, droughts, reduced food ration, people returning to South Sudan). A new objective for the institution is the implementation of insurance products (agriculture, health) for clients because over time, the needs of the refugee populations evolve.

To date, despite the various constraints and risks, in particular those related to the COVID-19 pandemic, the programme has developed well. A recent assessment found that out of a sample of 373 respondents, 91 new jobs had been created either through new businesses or through the expansion of existing businesses. Over 80% of the 289 beneficiaries surveyed and trained also said they had started saving. Similarly, 78% of beneficiaries said that the knowledge and skills acquired during the trainings they attended contributed to the growth of their business.

This innovative project will continue to develop with the aim of allowing as many people as possible to have access to financial services and quality training. To do this, the programme will ensure that financial education training is intensified to raise the awareness of as many refugees and host communities as possible, pursue customer surveys to facilitate informed decision-making and develop products adapted to refugees while continuing to roll out the project model in other refugee settlements.

Further information about the Refugee Financial Inclusion programme here.