[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 program 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 program?

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.

The Foundation provides the Plastic Odyssey LAB with skilled support

© Yann Vanbesien

Every minute, 19 tons of plastic are dumped into the ocean, less than 10% of the plastic produced is recycled and 80% of marine pollution comes from developing countries’ coastal cities.

Regarding this plastic crisis, Plastic Odyssey teams decided to take action by launching an expedition all around the world on their ambassador ship. Their goal? Build a global network of local plastic recycling initiatives. On board, sorting, recycling and pyrolysis technologies are made available to entrepreneurs to help them recover waste.

At the same time, Plastic Odyssey teams launched their “Plastic Odyssey Lab” (PO LAB) acceleration programme in order to provide recycling entrepreneurs with skilled support. Following a first call for proposals in France, six laureates joined their ambassador ship in July 2021.

On the agenda:

  • Technical support from Plastic Odyssey engineers. It will allow laureates to test their manufacturing processes using on-board recycling machines
  • Entrepreneurial support provided by the Crédit Agricole Group through the Grameen Crédit Agricole Foundation and the Crédit Agricole regional Banks.

Benefiting from its expertise in the promotion of impact entrepreneurship, the Foundation has specifically designed training modules for PO LAB laureates, all of them start-ups:

« We have first analysed the projects and needs of the laureates, most of them well in advance of their entrepreneurial adventure. We also helped them draw-up an impact-oriented business plan or, in the case of the most advanced, to specify possible technical and financial partnerships in the impact sector. We had to analyse the needs that the PO LAB could meet during their incubation. Once their needs identified, we looked for the best experts of the Crédit Agricole regional Banks taking into account where the laureates came from. During the PO LAB, laureates benefited from individual sessions with each expert of the regional Banks and Village by CA on topics such as marketing, HR and local financing. In addition, group sessions were held with support from the Foundation on the financial structure and strategy of an impact company and the specificity of fundraising for impact start-ups. » – Céline Hyon-Naudin, Senior Investment Manager, Grameen Crédit Agricole Foundation.

Once the PO LAB is over, the Foundation will pursue its entrepreneurial support with the laureates by organising a new training session in Marseille this autumn:

« Individual sessions with the Foundation are planned after the PO LAB on specific topics in order to give some time to the laureates to integrate their technical test into their entrepreneurial project. We are currently working on these modules and the following topics could, for instance, be addressed: which business model to choose (NGO, ESUS, SAS)? What product strategy to adopt to best meet identified social and environmental needs? How to organise logistical flows (waste supply, stock management, distribution of finished products)? » – Céline Hyon-Naudin.

The ship is currently moored in Dunkirk and Plastic Odyssey teams plan to launch their Mediterranean expedition in late fall 2021. Other sessions of the PO LAB are planned in the countries of the Mediterranean basin. The network of the Crédit Agricole Group is also mobilised in Egypt and Morocco to support this acceleration programme. A good example of the collective commitment of the Crédit Agricole Group in line with its Societal Project.

 

Further information about the support of Crédit Agricole to Plastic Odyssey.

Newsletter #39 : The recovery of activities in the microfinance sector

The Grameen Crédit Agricole Foundation publishes its Newsletter #39, which highlights the great resilience shown by its partner institutions to best support vulnerable populations.

The Foundation has been interested in the effects of the Covid-19 crisis on its partner microfinance institutions (MFIs) and conducted a series of surveys for over a year in collaboration with ADA and Inpulse. The results of these studies are summarized in the report “The impact of the crisis on microfinance institutions. Analyses and Perspectives.” that you will discover in this Newsletter.

There is no doubt that the pandemic has had a negative impact on the MFIs activities. However, we are witnessing a gradual recovery of activities in the sector, as KOMIDA can attest. Major actor of microfinance in Indonesia and partner of the Foundation since 2004, KOMIDA has succeeded in pursuing its expansion in rural areas with the opening of 10 additional branches in 2021. The institution continues to support its clients by emphasizing the granting of social-oriented microcredits.

In the section “Views from the field”, we present UGAFODE Microfinance Limited, a Ugandan MFI at the forefront of financial inclusion for refugees. Thanks to the support of the Foundation, the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR), and the Swedish International Development Agency (Sida), UGAFODE opened in March 2020 a branch office in the Nakivale Refugee Settlement in Uganda. The initial results are very encouraging and the ambition is to expand the project to other regions.

Finally, you will discover the testimony of Jean-Baptiste Bounes, Mergers and Acquisitions Manager at SODICA, who carried out the first Solidarity Bankers mission online in favour of Phare Performing Social Enterprise (PPSE) in Cambodia.

Missions on the field and online are currently to be filled.

Read the Newsletter

(*) 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.

Solidarity Bankers : two online missions are to be filled in favor of FATEN and OXUS Kyrgyzstan

© Philippe LISSAC (Godong) / Fondation GCA

Solidarity Bankers is a skills volunteering program launched by the Foundation and Crédit Agricole S.A. in 2018. The program 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 online missions are available. The Solidarity Banker will work on this mission at the rate of one day per week during 15 weeks. However, these duration modalities can be modified according to the preferences of the Solidarity Banker, the beneficiary organization and the employer.

  • “Financial Management” mission for FATEN (Palestine)

FATEN is a microfinance institution created in 1995 by the NGO Save The Children. Its mission is to serve the financial services needs of low and middle-income Palestinian entrepreneurs and individuals. The Grameen Crédit Agricole Foundation has been supporting FATEN since 2014 through various senior loans but also through technical assistance in the framework of Solidarity Bankers by CA.

The selected Crédit Agricole expert will support FATEN in updating financial procedures, policies and tools. The Solidarity Banker must know international financial reporting standards and in particular, the latest changes to IFRS 16 and IFRS 9. Fluency in English is mandatory and a good knowledge of Arabic is a plus.

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

  • “Digital Strategy” mission for 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 :

Solidarity Bankers : two field missions are to be filled in Georgia and Moldova

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 missions are available on the field :

  • « 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 selected Crédit Agricole expert will be responsible for evaluating the organisation’s marketing strategy and actions, as well as developing a marketing plan for the end of 2021/2022. The Solidarity Banker must have a solid experience in marketing and a good command of English.

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

  • « Digital Strategy » mission for Smart Credit (Moldava)

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  

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

 

 

COVID-19 : The Foundation’s governance during the health crisis

 

Spotlight on the interview with Sylvie Lemmet, Chairman of the Finance, Risks and Impact Committee, Jérôme Brunel, Chairman of the Compliance and Internal Control Committee, and Bernard Lepot, Chairman of the Investment Committee.

Looking back on the outbreak of the crisis, could you tell us how you perceived it at the time?

Bernard Lepot: We all understood as early as March that we were in unknown territory for an indefinite period of time, with systemic consequences that were difficult to grasp. All continents were affected, including Africa and Asia, where we have most of our activities. The risk of serious difficulties for our partners was likely, with possible large provisions for the Foundation. Despite this lack of visibility, the Board had to define the Foundation’s position quickly, which we summarise as follows: support for our existing partners and consultation with other international lenders.

Sylvie Lemmet: Last March, we were completely in the dark. We felt that the crisis was going to hit developing countries hard and that we were going to face potential bankruptcies and losses for the Foundation. We were worried for our partners.

Jérôme Brunel: I feared that the impact of the pandemic, which I thought would affect developing or less developed emerging countries more strongly (though this has not been confirmed) would weaken the solidity of the Foundation’s counterparties, leading to a substantial amount of provisions. This has not materialised up to now thanks to the resilience of the organisations supported and the coordination and joint actions of the various stakeholders in the inclusive finance sector.

What has been the role of the Committee you chair in this context?

JB: The Compliance and Internal Control Committee has played its role by adapting the internal control system to the increase in Covid-19 risks, organising training on debt restructuring methods, adapting the provisioning policy and collecting more information on the end clients of our counterparties. But to be honest, it was the Finance, Risks and Impact Committee that had the primary role in mobilising the Foundation’s governance to deal with the consequences of the pandemic.

SL: The Finance, Risks and Impact (FRI) Committee already includes the Chair of the Compliance and Internal Control Committee among its members. Last year, we immediately felt the need to make the link with the Investment Committee, and its Chair also sat on the FRI Committee. The development of governance with this ad hoc committee has been extremely positive. It enabled us to build together, and with the Foundation’s Management Committee, a good understanding of the overall situation (the impact on the portfolio, liquidity and margin) and an intervention doctrine, which we developed as the crisis progressed. The objective is to provide the necessary oxygen to our partners while monitoring the risk of default.

BL: Once the roadmap was established, the Investment Committee continued to meet every month, but by videoconferencing, with a reduced number of new projects of course, but with close monitoring of the maturity extensions granted to microfinance institutions that requested them and, more generally, enhanced risk monitoring. The Board also decided to set up an ad hoc committee consisting of the three chairmen of the specialized committees to examine and discuss possible adjustments to the Foundation’s strategy. This body met several times to exchange views with the teams and to provide input to the Board before decisions were made.

What lessons have you learned from this experience one year later, and what prospects do you see for the Foundation in 2021?

SL: One year on, I am above all reassured by the quality of the men and women who make up the Foundation’s executive team and who have been able to respond to an unprecedented situation with great flexibility, professionalism and commitment. We were able to control the financial risks without abandoning our partners in difficulty, and to test the resilience of the organisations we supported, which reassures us as to their quality and as well as the resistance of the microfinance sector to shocks. This is a point that needs to be explored in order to gain a better understanding of the mechanisms that have been implemented locally and the real social impact behind the good financial performance. We all hope for a return to a less chaotic situation and the resumption of activities in 2021. We will have to learn the lessons of remote instructions and juggle with an activity that seems to be picking up though travel remains limited. The pandemic is not yet behind us, but I hope it will remain under control in the countries in which we operate.

JB: The health crisis has shown, first, the solidity of the commitments undertaken by the Foundation, i.e. the judicious choice of its counterparts. Secondly, the quality of the response of the team and its Managing Director to adapt to this unprecedented context, helped by the mobilisation of its Board and its specialised committees. Finally, the Foundation’s commitment to continue its lending activity despite this «hostile» environment and to support microfinance institutions through an international initiative to harmonise the policies of other lenders and a precise dialogue with each of the borrowers.

BL: One year on, it is worth underscoring the remarkable mobilisation and adaptation of the Foundation’s teams, with great collaboration between the various functions. We should also note the great resilience of our portfolio to date, which has perhaps exceeded our expectations. Good information/involvement on the part of the Board has enabled it to express its full support and solidarity with the Foundation’s strategy and actions. Things are still very uncertain for 2021, with perhaps a better visibility in the 4th quarter, but again nothing is certain. Let’s hope that 2021 will be a year of transition that will enable us to resume our development activities in 2022.

Download the 2020 Integrated Report here.