Technical assistance: testimony of two beneficiaries of the African Facility

In 2013, alongside the French Development Agency (FDA), the Foundation launched its first technical assistance programme: the African Facility. The objective of this scheme is to support small and medium-sized rural microfinance institutions, with a strong social impact, in Sub-Saharan Africa. More than eight years after its launch, the Facility’s results bear witness to the importance of providing not only financial but also technical support to partner microfinance institutions.

Through the African Facility, the Foundation and the FDA have supported 26 microfinance institutions, which have themselves financed income-generating activities of more than 500,000 borrowers with average loans of €200. The programme, that allowed carrying out 328 technical assistance missions, has covered many areas of expertise, from the development of environmental strategies to the digitalisation of the credit granting process and the strengthening of the governance.

In this context, Bimas and MicroLoan Fondation, two microfinance institutions in Africa, received several technical assistance missions. Spotlight on their assessment of the African Facility. Discover the interview of Elizabeth Karinga, financial manager of BIMAS and Randall Williams former CEO, of MicroLoan Malawi who looks back on this programme.

What is your assessment of the African Facility?

Elizabeth: The African Facility has been an extraordinary adventure for BIMAS. The progress made by our institution is important. For example, when we started to be supported by the African Facility, our operations management processes were still manual, whereas, through the support of the programme, we were able to begin a digitalization process. Thanks to the African Facility, we have also improved our social performance management and the communication with our clients.

Randall: MLF Malawi joined the African Facility in 2018 and has benefited from several missions, particularly on digitalization. For example, with the assistance of the facility, we have implemented a new HR platform which has made it possible to automate some HR procedures and ensure more efficient staff management such as the management of staff leave. Prior to implementing the platform, it took branch staff two days and four sheets of paper to get approval on their leave requests. It now takes less than five minutes and no paper for that same approval. We were also able to implement a new cloud-based accounting platform to replace the legacy system that we had. This came at absolutely the right time as it allowed our Finance staff to work remotely from home during the COVID-19 crisis, something that was not possible before. I should point out as well that both platforms have centralised file archiving capabilities that allows teams to access digital files securely and remotely. So, apart from the significant gains in productivity, we have also become a more agile organisation since Management is now able to use the real time access to information on the platforms to make strategic decisions faster.

Elizabeth: The African Facility has really helped us in terms of developing our business. One of the essential things in microfinance is to be able to gauge how many people we reach, what type of disbursement we make and how to increase the financial inclusion of the greatest number. At the start of the programme, BIMAS had approximately 18,000 clients; today we serve 42,000 people, thanks to the new processes that we have implemented within the framework of the African Facility. We have moved up from 21 to 40 branches and this has created jobs in our new areas of intervention, particularly in rural areas. This growth demonstrates the positive impact of the programme and the partnership with the Grameen Crédit Agricole Foundation.

Randall: We are really grateful for the support that we have received under the African Facility to implement these capacity building initiatives. These technical assistance missions have really helped to strengthen our operations by improving the governance structure and increasing the overall resilience of our organization. More importantly, it has helped us to minimize the disruption linked to the COVID-19 pandemic and has also enabled us to scale our outreach at a much faster rate than before. For context – we were able to grow our branch network from 15 to 22 over the last two years (despite the pandemic) and this is largely due to the productivity improvements which has allowed our staff to better focus on scaling outreach, improving customer satisfaction, as well as driving other key social performance management objectives. I hope that Grameen Credit Agricole Foundation will be able to continue this very important initiative because as you can see, there are clear benefits not only to the institution itself, but also to the base of pyramid clients that we serve.

More information about our technical assistance programmes here.

Newsletter #41 : The Foundation consolidates its action in favour of financial inclusion

The Grameen Crédit Agricole Foundation publishes its Newsletter N.41 that highlights the activities of the Foundation and the usefulness of its action.

In 2021, the Foundation once again demonstrated the usefulness of its activity: it supported 81 microfinance institutions and impact enterprises that serve over 9 million beneficiaries, particularly women and rural populations, in 37 countries. These are some key figures that we present to you in the 2021 Integrated Report.

In this edition of the Newsletter, you will also discover the testimony of a Solidarity Banker from Crédit Agricole CIB who went to Kyrgyzstan and the joint interview of two managers of microfinance institutions benefiting from the African Facility, the first technical assistance programme launched by the Foundation, in partnership with the French Development Agency.

Read the Newsletter

Publication of the Annual report of Crédit Agricole’s FIR Fund

The FIR Fund (for Inclusive Finance in Rural areas, in French), which is exclusively reserved for Crédit Agricole Group entities, makes investing in the financing of rural microfinance institutions possible. The investment serves populations traditionally excluded from the banking sector in emerging countries.

To date, 21 Regional Banks*, Amundi and CA Assurances have subscribed to the capital of the FIR. The FIR Fund has supported new institutions in 2021. It provided €1 million in loans to ACF in Kazakhstan, €800,000 to Lazika in Georgia, €1 million to Montecredit in Montenegro and €500,000 to Furuz in Tajikistan.

By the end of December 2021, the FIR Fund supports 6 microfinance institutions in 6 countries: Georgia, Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan, Kosovo, Montenegro and Tajikistan. Despite the health crisis, which increased credit risk and reduced profitability, these institutions have shown strong resilience. They continue to contribute to the development of income-generating activities, particularly village-based agricultural production (71% of beneficiaries live in rural areas).

Download report
(only available in French)

*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 and Touraine Poitou

Travel diary of a Solidarity Banker in Kyrgyzstan

Launched by the Grameen Crédit Agricole Foundation and Crédit Agricole S.A. in 2018, Solidarity Bankers is a skills-based volunteering programme open to all Crédit Agricole Group employees in favour of microfinance institutions and social impact enterprises supported by the Foundation. Discover the interview of Mark Diakhaté, Account Manager in the Structured Finance Distribution team at Crédit Agricole CIB, who left for Kyrgyzstan in 2021 to support Salym.

The discovery of the programme and preparation
I have always had a keen interest in the fight against poverty. Indeed, I had participated in associative projects based on microcredit in Vietnam in 2008 and in Senegal in 2016, and I had followed a microfinance course during my university exchange in Manila in 2011, but I haven’t had the opportunity to work in a real financial institution offering this type of product. So, applying to the Solidarity Bankers programme and in particular to the mission with Salym in Kyrgyzstan was an obvious choice for me.

Salym is a microfinance institution that provides financial services to low-income populations in Kyrgyzstan and my mission consisted in launching the environmental and social risk management (E&S) approach in the lending process.

To frame the mission, I was able to draw on my skills in internal control and risk management – having been an internal auditor and then a credit analyst – I also benefited from a training course on Salym and Kyrgyzstan provided by the Grameen Crédit Agricole Foundation. In mid-July, we started preparing the mission with Salym so that I could get to know their organisation and procedures. In addition, I looked for various resources on microcredit and took some private lessons in Russian – which was my third language during my studies – in order to be able to have simple conversations on the spot without an interpreter.

The mission in Kyrgyzstan
I visited Salym’s premises in Bishkek for two weeks in September 2021. I arrived in Bishkek on the first Sunday of September and on Monday morning, I presented the mission during a kick-off meeting with the Management Committee. During the first week I met with the main managers and also with some borrowers, in order to get acquainted with the conditions of Salym’s activity and to map the main E&S risks inherent to the lending activities.

During the second week, I discussed with the management a first version of the risk mapping, and then possible evolutions of the credit process in order to integrate E&S risk management. At the end of the second week, I conducted a training session on E&S risk management with the Salym Management Committee and presented the roadmap for the deployment of the E&S risk management system. The pace during the mission was fast. Thus, I was able to finalise the initially planned deliverables (E&S risk matrix, proposal for a new credit process, training, roadmap) during my stay on site.

The return home
Back in Paris, at the request of Salym’s General Manager, I proposed a new and more comprehensive version of the Kyrgyz microfinance institution’s E&S policy. Mid-October, we had a final meeting by videoconference to discuss my proposal, with a view to deploying the E&S risk management system in 2022.

I was delighted to be able to put my skills at the service of a company with an impact, in an unknown cultural environment (Central Asia remains a landlocked area with few tourists) and particularly exotic. I came back with the image of a dynamic country, rich in entrepreneurial opportunities.

I sincerely thank Carolina Viguet, Maxime Borgogno, Gabrielle Ferhat of the Foundation but also my hierarchy at RPC (Natacha Gallou, Hubert Frédéric, Michael Beucher) and the Human Resources of CACIB (Virginie Halipré, Nawel Frioui), who allowed me to participate in this mission as a Solidarity Banker.

The Foundation’s job interview: Investment Officer

In the early years of its existence, the Foundation focused on financing microfinance institutions, gradually specializing in smaller institutions, located in rural areas and mainly benefiting women who develop small income-generating activities.

In this interview you will discover the testimony of Sébastien Simonot, Investment Officer, who explains his job.

In a few words, what is your Investment Officer Job about?

The investment officer job consists of establishing and developing sustainable partnerships with microfinance institutions, and organisations that provide financial and non-financial services to low-income population.
A big part of our job is devoted to identifying these potential partners, through an in-depth analysis of their financial, social and environmental performances. The first phase is desk review, on a basis of the documents the institution sent us, and then on site during our due diligences missions. We also regularly exchange with the institutions we already have in our portfolio to evaluate the evolution of their financial, social and environmental performances, and to assess their financial and technical needs in order to strengthen our partnerships.

What was your path? Is there a typical career path to be an Investment Officer?

I started my career in commercial banking, first at Crédit Lyonnais, then at Crédit Agricole CIB. After a detour into the humanitarian field, I moved into the microfinance sector a dozen years ago, approximately when the Grameen Crédit Agricole Foundation was created. During these 12 years, I led management and consulting missions for microfinance institutions in Haiti and Africa. I joined the Foundation in the summer of 2020, and I cover for it several areas in Africa as well as the Middle East.
I would say that there is no typical career path at the Foundation. The Investment Officer profiles are varied, but they have a common trait. We all have training and experience in economics and finance, coupled with exposure to the field of development and humanitarian work.

What are the strengths of your job?

This job gives us the opportunity to observe the innovation that microfinance institutions bring to their services to vulnerable populations. Despite the difficult contexts in which they must operate. The in-depth analysis of these institutions, particularly through on-site visits, and meetings with their clients, reminds us of the Foundation’s ambitions: to promote social entrepreneurship and financial inclusion. Finally, on the cross-functional aspect of the job, an Investment Officer works with all the Foundation’s teams: Middle Office, Risk, Technical Assistance, and Communication.

Why did you choose the Foundation?

The sector of financial inclusion has grown considerably in the recent decades. Many funds exist to support these institutions, both financially and technically. From the outset, the Foundation has equipped itself with the tools to intervene with small institutions with a high social impact. On the other hand, it has been able to intervene in areas where many other operators did not intervene, in fragile countries, particularly from an economic, social and climatic point of view. Today we have significant feedback experience in many countries, particularly in Africa, which contributes to the strength of our identity.

Watch the interview

The Foundation’s jobs interview: technical assistance

Starting 2013, the Foundation wanted to complement its approach with a targeted expertise intervention to strengthen the operational performance of its partners. For nine years now, we have been developing, coordinating and implementing technical assistance programs.

In this interview, you will discover the testimony of Victoire Binson, in charge of technical assistance, who explains her job and its impact.

In a few words, what is the Foundations technical assistance offer?

Technical assistance is an additional support mechanism for the Foundation partners. These may be microfinance institutions or social enterprises, the modalities of intervention are varied. It can be participating in training, support missions, but also co-financing for the acquisition of equipment. The Foundation plays a coordination and technical assistance role in the framework of programmes in conjunction with our technical and financial partners. Therefore, by the end of December 2021, it was almost 380 technical assistance missions that have been launched and coordinated by the Foundation.

What programmes did the Foundation develop?

The technical assistance offer of the Grameen Crédit Agricole Foundation kept on expanding since the launch of our historical program: the African Facility in 2008, which aims to strengthen small MFIs in rural areas. Since then, we have also launched a technical assistance programme financed by the government of Luxembourg and coordinated by the EIB, in order to build the capacity of microfinance institutions in sub-Saharan Africa. Moreover, in Uganda, with the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees and thanks to funding from the Swedish cooperation, we were able to enable refugee populations to access financial and non-financial services.

What are the technical assistance programmes of the Foundation that are open to Social Enterprises?

We also have other programmes open to social enterprises. First, the Solidarity Bankers programme, which aim to enhance the skills of Crédit Agricole Group employees and allows our partners, microfinance institutions and social enterprises, to benefit from pro bono missions in the field, in Africa, Asia and Eastern Europe. Finally, we have one last programme that is called the SSNUP programme, whose objective is to strengthen the resilience of small producers and the structuring of agricultural value chains in Africa and Asia.

What are the main impacts of the programmes?

The Foundation has just published a report on its technical assistance programme, in which we identified three direct impacts. First, the technical assistance helps strengthen the operational performance of its partners. Secondly, technical assistance allows the development of new services such as digitalization or micro insurance. It also helps to reach new targets such as refugees. Finally, through its technical assistance programmes, the Grameen Crédit Agricole Foundation promotes innovative practices and strengthens its ties with the main players of the inclusive finance sector.

What are the future projects?

Technical assistance is an integral part of the Foundation’s new 2022-2025 strategic plan, and is a major focus of its development. In 2022, we are also launching a programme with the International Labor Organization and financed by Proparco. It will enable us to support 12 of our microfinance institutions in Africa and Asia to develop micro insurance products. We have strong ambitions in terms of digital technology and resilience to climate change. And we are also working on setting up new support systems to help our partners deal with this major transition.

Watch the interview

The SSNUP programme supports cacao cooperatives in Ivory Coast

©Foundation Grameen Crédit Agricole/Philippe Lissac

SSNUP is a programme coordinated by the NGO ADA, whose objective is to increase the productivity of smallholder farmers in Asia, Africa and Latin America through better risk management and the development of sustainable agricultural value chains. Funded by governments of Luxembourg, Switzerland and Liechtenstein, the SSNUP aims to improve the living conditions and food security of more than 10 million smallholder producers. The Grameen Crédit Agricole Foundation is one the impact investors in charge of implementing the project.

The producers’ cooperative, a lever for development

In Ivory Coast, where half of the producers of cacao lives below the poverty line, producers’ cooperatives are an important development lever. Beyond the commercial advantage that it offers to producers, cooperatives offer to theirs members services ranging from small equipment input and supply to the improvement of community life through actions such as the establishment of schools and hospitals. However, cooperatives sometimes encounter repayment difficulties of their members and unpaid debts are covered by cooperatives with their own funds, which prevents them from carrying out their social development mission.

This is what Advans Ivory Coast wanted to support since its creation in 2012, by being the first financial institution to give access to input credit to cocoa cooperatives. Advans Ivory Coast’s input credit consists of granting cocoa cooperatives financing that allows them to grant credits to their members for the purchase of fertilizers and crop protection products.

Reinforce the capacities of the cocoa cooperatives in Ivory Coast and its members

Advans Ivory Coast has received a grant of SSNUP to support cocoa cooperatives in improving the level of reimbursement of theirs members. With the funding received, the institution has recruited technical assistance providers to develop input credit management and monitor tools for cooperatives and financial education modules on credit management for smallholder cocoa farmers.

Ultimately, building the capacity of small producers in financial education will help limit the risk management and thus fulfil their role as facilitators on the value chain and carry out their social actions in favour of the community. It will also make it easier for cooperatives to renew their loan from Advans Ivory Coast and for producers to have access to the inputs needed to ensure a good agricultural yield and thus increase their incomes and improve their living conditions. Finally, Advans Ivory Coast will strengthen its risk profile, which will help consolidate existing relationships with its current partners and attract new investors.

New Solidarity Bankers mission in Kosovo

©FONDATION GRAMEEN CREDIT AGRICOLE/GODONG

At the initiative of the Grameen Crédit Agricole Foundation and Crédit Agricole S.A, skills volunteering missions Solidarity Bankers are offered to employees of the Crédit Agricole Group on behalf of organisations supported by the Foundation. A new Solidarity Bankers mission is to be filled in favor of agency for finance (AFK) in Kosovo. The institution was created in the years 2000 and have obtained the status of microfinance institution in 2011.

AFK aims to improve living conditions in Kosovo by providing access to sustainable financial services to small and micro enterprises. As of December 2021, the organisation has 24 branches across Kosovo and 225 employees. It serves 20,733 active borrowers (23% women and 50% in rural areas) and manages a portfolio of 40.2 million euros.

AFK has developed a risk policy focused on credit risk while the other risk areas are managed by each department without a formalized framework. Given its growing size, the institution would like to structure a proper risk management framework to improve identification and analysis of risks, especially operational risks. The Solidarity Banker will be responsible for supporting AFK in the diagnosis of the procedure and tools to manage risks and more precisely operational risks.

To discover the details of this mission click here.

How to apply

To apply send your CV as well as one or two paragraphs explaining your motivation and expertise to carolina.viguet@credit-agricole-sa.fr

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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 Foundation is a cross-business actor 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.

€10 million partnership in favour of African entrepreneurship between EIB and the Foundation

FGCA/Didier Gentilhomme

16 February, 2022

Small entrepreneurs across Africa to benefit from €10 million partnership between European Investment Bank and the Grameen Credit Agricole Foundation

  • Ongoing cooperation to strengthen access to microfinance by rural and underserved entrepreneurs impacted by COVID pandemic
  • Scheme to back microfinance institutions in different countries across Africa, with a focus on gender inclusion
  • Africa private sector to benefit from local currency financing and support for smaller microfinance institutions

Access to finance by entrepreneurs and businesses impacted by COVID-19 in rural regions in Sub-Saharan countries will be enhanced by a new €10 million targeted financing initiative launched by the European Investment Bank (EIB) and the Grameen Credit Agricole Foundation ahead of the first EU-Africa summit since the pandemic.

The latest cooperation between the European Investment Bank, the world’s largest international public bank and the Grameen Credit Agricole Foundation, a leading supporter of microfinance across Africa, will focus on ensuring that small business can access finance, create jobs and combat poverty.

“Ensuring that entrepreneurs and communities across Africa can access finance is essential to unlock opportunities, accelerate social inclusion and strengthen economic resilience to challenges unleashed by the COVID-19 pandemic. The EIB is committed to supporting microfinance across Africa and we are pleased to strengthen over long-standing cooperation with the Grameen Credit Agricole Foundation. The €10 million engagement launched today will directly benefit small businesses across the continent.” said Ambroise Fayolle, Vice President of the European Investment Bank.

“Delivering targeted financing in fragile regions is capital to beat poverty, prevent social exclusion and unlock opportunities that drive economic growth. This new cooperation between the EIB and our Foundation will strengthen access to finance by entrepreneurs in sectors impacted by COVID and in remote and rural communities.” said Eric Campos, Managing Director of the Grameen Credit Agricole Foundation.

The new pan-African microfinance partnership was formally agreed in Brussels earlier today ahead of the EU-Africa Summit at the EU-Africa Business Forum.

Improving private sector access to finance in disadvantaged communities

The new cooperation between the EIB and the Grameen Credit Agricole Foundation will help to scale up microfinance activity across Africa by providing long-term and local currency financing to local microfinance institutions.

The investment is expected to finance more than 147,000 loans to self-employed and micro-enterprises, alongside sustaining up to 36,000 jobs. Reflecting the importance of empowering women and girls across Africa the scheme will support an estimated 98,000 loans to female entrepreneurs.

Tackling challenges holding back microfinance in Africa

The new operation will support smaller microfinance institutions than those that the EIB can finance directly. These microfinance partners are often also unable to receive financing from local commercial banks and cannot scale up.

The initiative will benefit financial and social inclusion and is expected to support entrepreneurs in remote regions, micro business run by women and young people who have limited or no access to financial services. This vulnerable and underserved segments are also the most impacted by the COVID-19 pandemic.

Supporting fragile regions across Africa

The Grameen Credit Agricole Foundation will be able to allocate the loan across the many microfinance institutions in sub-Saharan Africa. The network of partner microfinance institutions spans sixteen countries across the region, including fragile ones such as Benin, Togo, Niger and Malawi.

Building on longstanding cooperation between microfinance partners

The European Investment Bank and the Grameen Credit Agricole Foundation have worked together to strengthen microfinance across Africa since 2018 and strive to enhance microfinance best-practice and help entrepreneurs to improve business skills through technical assistance projects.

The European Investment Bank is the world’s largest international public bank and since the pandemic has provided more than €8 billion for new investment across Africa.


The European Investment Bank (EIB) is the long-term lending institution of the European Union owned by its Member States. It makes long-term finance available for sound investment in order to contribute towards EU policy goals.
Created in 2008 at the joint initiative of Crédit Agricole and Nobel Peace Laureate Pr. Muhammad Yunus, the Grameen Crédit Agricole Foundation finances and supports through technical assistance microfinance institutions and social enterprises in around 40 countries.

Plastic Odyssey Lab: meeting with plastic recycling entrepreneurs

Plastic Odyssey collects and develops plastic recycling technologies and solutions to distribute them in open-source to as many people as possible. They are embarked on a laboratory ship, which will leave in 2022 for a world tour along the most polluted sides of the planet. At each stop on its expedition around the world, Plastic Odyssey’s floating recycling workshop will welcome entrepreneurs from around the world to help them test, prototype and develop their plastic recycling solutions.

Plastic Odyssey and its partner Crédit Agricole are organizing “PO Lab: meeting with plastic recycling entrepreneurs” at Village By CA in Paris on February 16 from 3:30 p.m. to 6 p.m.

The programme

1 – Pitch of the winning PO Lab projects

A look back at the 1st edition of the PO Lab, with the pitches of the 5 winners:

  • Conchyl’Innov, Charlotte Rhone
  • Plasti-Cycle, Daovone Sribouavong
  • Recycled plastic skateboard, Jason Knight
  • Purple Alternative Surface, Pierre Quinonero & Sebastien Molas
  • Mon empreinte plastique, Alban Desbarax & David Le Gall

`2 – Round Table: Plastic pollution & recycling solutions in Africa and Asia: context, challenges and perspectives

With inspiring speakers:

  • Matthieu Witvoet: 27-year-old eco-adventurer, member of Circul’R, who cycled around the world in 2017 to find out about good plastic recycling practices.
  • Pascale Martel Naquin:Former Director of the CEFREPADE association, who has supported skills building and waste recovery actions for more than 20 years, especially in Haiti and sub-Saharan Africa.
  • Said Benhamida: CEO and co-founder of Mika, a startup that collects and recycles plastic waste along the Moroccan coast.
  • Jean-Baptiste Grassin: Managing Director of Nomad Plastic and Research and Strategy Manager at Plastic Odyssey.

This meeting can be followed on Webex.

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The Village by CA is a network of start-up accelerators supported by Crédit Agricole. It relies on innovation ecosystems to support the transformation of businesses in the regions. Find out more: //www.levillagebyca.com/