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.

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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.

The Grameen Crédit Agricole Foundation participates to the 2022 High Commissioner’s Dialogue on the Protection Challenges

On December 7, Violette Cubier, in charge of technical assistance at the Grameen Credit Agricole Foundation, participated in the plenary session of the UNHCR’s “High Commissioner’s Dialogue on the Protection Challenges of 2022” event in Geneva. This was an opportunity to discuss the role of development cooperation in advancing protection, inclusion and solutions for refugees and stateless persons as well as for host communities.

Participants were able to discuss how to improve development cooperation in contexts of displacement and launch concrete, tangible, multi-stakeholder initiatives to address the challenges identified.

For the Grameen Credit Agricole Foundation, this event was an opportunity to present and promote its financial inclusion programme for refugees and host communities in Uganda, in cooperation with UNHCR and the Swedish International Development Cooperation Agency (SIDA). The programme aims to promote access to credit, savings and other financial and non-financial services for refugees and their host communities.

The programme has been hailed as an “exemplary initiative for the sustainable economic inclusion of refugees”.

For more information on the programme, click here.

Advans Côte d’Ivoire: The institution celebrates its 10th anniversary with a string of awards

Advans Côte d’Ivoire celebrated its 10th anniversary on March 23, 2022 in Abidjan. The ceremony took place in the presence of about 80 guests.

Founded in 2012, Advans Côte d’Ivoire, a partner of the Grameen Crédit Agricole Foundation, currently operates through a network of 22 branches, employing over 650 people. The institution currently serves more than 160,000 clients with outstanding loans of more than CFAF 65 billion.

True to its successful mission, Advans Côte d’Ivoire continues to help small businesses grow by providing sustainable access to simple and adaptable financial products and services. It does so by leveraging innovative services, proximity distribution models and the digitization of its product offering.

For its innovative digitization of payment and savings for cocoa farmers and cooperatives solution, Advans Côte d’Ivoire received the 2018 European Microfinance Prize “Financial Inclusion through Technology”. Named “Best Financial Institution for Credit Services” for the third year in a row and “Best Financial Institution for Agricultural Finance” for the first time, the institution continues to win awards from the African Consumer Label.

In ten years, Advans Côte d’Ivoire has developed a wide range of products tailored to the realities and expectations of disadvantaged populations.

For more information on Advans Côte d’Ivoire, click here.

Phare Ponleu Selpak: Cambodia’s Circus Show Breaks Guinness World Record

In the context of the Covid crisis, the circus, in search of funding, came up with something really creative to attract attention: to organise a show likely to break the Guinness World Record.

Phare Ponleu Selpak, a non-profit Cambodian art school, set a Guinness World Record by organising a circus performance that lasted 24 hours, 10 minutes and 30 seconds in Battambang. The show took place between March 7 and 8, 2021, but the record was confirmed by Guinness World Records (GWR) in November.

Phare Ponleu Selpak (PPSA) is an organisation founded by Cambodian refugees to help children through the trauma of war and to restore the country’s culture and education after the Khmer Rouge genocide. The association now contributes to the education of 800 underprivileged children and trains hundreds of others in the visual, musical and performing arts to help lift hundreds of families out of poverty and keep Cambodian culture alive.

Over the past decade, PPSA has taken innovative steps to avoid dependency on aid by establishing a popular animal-free circus and tourist attraction that has funded their rescue programmes. In particular, it created Phare Performing Social Enterprise (PPSE), in which the Grameen Crédit Agricole Foundation is a shareholder, and which is the company responsible for producing and distributing circus shows while employing young artists from disadvantaged backgrounds, trained by the NGO.

Faced with the Covid-related restrictions that put an end to the shows, and therefore the source of income for artists, PPSA looked for alternative sources of income and thus came up with something really creative to attract attention. An idea that was based on the same creativity and resilience with which the organisation was born and which allowed it to break a world record and thus enter the Guinness.

For more information about the Phare circus, click here.

In Moldova, the Foundation strengthens its support to Smart Credit

© Philippe LISSAC / Godong

In September, the Grameen Crédit Agricole Foundation granted new financing in Eastern Euro18pe and in particular in Moldova, where it is strengthening its support to the microfinance institution Smart Credit.

Indeed, the institution was granted a new loan for an amount, in local currency, equivalent to €500,000. Smart Credit is a microfinance institution whose objective is to help clients improve their living conditions, especially socially disadvantaged small entrepreneurs. The institution currently has over 3,000 active borrowers, 54% of whom are women and 71% of whom live in rural areas, and manages a portfolio of around €4 million.

For further information on our partners, please click here.

Finance at the service of inclusion: focus on impact investing on the occasion of the release of the film “Same Same but different”

On the occasion of the release of the film “Same Same but different”, directed by Tommy Pascal and shot in Cambodia with Phare Performing Social Enterprise (PPSE), a social enterprise supported by the Grameen Crédit Agricole Foundation and that employs young artists from underprivileged backgrounds, Crédit Agricole SA and the Foundation organised a round table at the Grand Rex on “Finance at the service of inclusion: challenges and opportunities”.

Moderated by Vincent Brousseau, Director of impact financing at the Grameen Crédit Agricole Foundation, the round table composed of Cyrille Langendorff (Phitrust), Florian Peudevin (Amundi) and Mathieu Cornieti (Impact Partners) generated a very interesting and informative discussion. The speakers thus presented the impact investing sector in France, explained what patient investments are, the risks and challenges of the sector. Punctuated with concrete examples of their activity, the debates highlighted the importance of finance in achieving fairer and more equitable inclusion of vulnerable populations, both in France and abroad, but also the importance of time in projects that can only be considered on the long term.

“Take the time to support social innovations.” – Florian Peudevin

Time is a key concept in finance. Because it is linked to profitability, performance, and the clarity of their effects. Would going fast be a guarantee of success? No when it comes to impact investing. “To provide answers to the major challenges, we must innovate and take the time needed to support these innovations“, explains Florian Peudevin. Investing in a project with a social impact means accepting that it experiences hazards and difficulties. “We are on the long term. We adjust the level of risk on which we want to position ourselves”, agrees Mathieu Cornieti. “We do not run away in the event of a glitch”, concludes Cyrille Langendorff.

Presented by Régis Wargnier, French director, President of PPS France, in the presence of Véronique Faujour, Managing Director of the Grameen Crédit Agricole Foundation, the experience of PPSE is a concrete example of what impact investing can represent for the inclusion of vulnerable populations, in particular young people. This support is all the more necessary in times of crisis such as the one experienced during the Covid pandemic which has undermined the financial situation of the company and, consequently, that of the artists and their families. The support of the Grameen Crédit Agricole Foundation and Crédit Agricole S.A. was crucial in enabling the company to take this step and continue to offer unique shows such as the one from which an extract was screened as an introduction to the round table.

Find the extract from the film “Same Same but different” here.

The entire film is available on the Qwest TV platform (subscription required).

Symbiotics publishes its Impact Report 2021

Financial services have an essential role to play in emerging economies and are a key contributor to achieving the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs). However, one in three adults in developing countries remain unbanked, lacking access to basic financial services to help them manage their household finances.

Expanding access to finance among these underserved populations allows them to improve their financial resilience, capture business opportunities that would otherwise remain out of reach, and create new jobs, thereby contributing to several SDGs. For example, financial services such as loans, savings accounts and insurance products3131 contribute to poverty alleviation (SDG 1: No Poverty) by providing low-income households with mechanisms to better manage their finances. In addition, targeting financial inclusion for women contributes to gender equality (SDG 5: Gender Equality), since low-income women account for the largest share of unbanked adults and often lack the resources to control their finances. Other tailored financial services targeting farmers may also contribute to food security (such as SDG 2: Zero Hunger) by increasing agricultural productivity and supporting smallholder farmers.

Through these channels, the Symbiotics portfolio aims to contribute to sustainable development and economic growth by expanding access to finance among low- and middle-income households in emerging and frontier markets.

The Symbiotics Impact Report 2021 analyses and presents the social and environmental impact of Symbiotics investments as of December 2021.

Download the Report here. 

CAURIE in Senegal implements YAPU software

YAPU is a compâny founded to support financial institutions enabling more clients to pursue economic empowerment and social development while seeing and decreasing negative impact on the environment.

The platform enables financial institutions to seamlessly digitize their processes, enhance risk management and improve terms and conditions of value offerings to their customers. Financial institutions can expand and deepen their market outreach and become ready for additional investment based on their documented impact.

Recently, the YAPU team, led by Delphin Ngamije conducted an intensive, practice-focused training in the context of the implementation of the YAPU software during a visit to CAURIE Microfinance, a long-standing partner of YAPU and a partner of the Grameen Credit Agricole Foundation in Senegal.

The training focused primarly on the theoretical part of how to use the software as well as interpret the integrated climate indicators and was followed by a two-day training in the field. CAURIE’s staff tested the digital applications for individual loans, but also for group loans, for agriculture and business with real clients.

The implementation of this software will facilitate the work of loan officers, and consequently, the processes of CAURIE and its interaction with clients.

For further information about CAURIE, click here

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Source: YAPU website

The Grameen Crédit Agricole Foundation member of the 4 per 1000 initiative

The 4 per 1000 initiative, launched by France at COP21 in 2015, brings together voluntary public and private actors to launch concrete actions “to improve soil health. It carries the vision of healthy, carbon-rich soils globally to fight climate change and end world hunger.” The ambition of 4 per 1000 is to engage the planet’s farmers towards regenerative, resilient and biodiversity-friendly agriculture.

The ambition of the International “4 per 1000” Initiative is to encourage land users to move towards diversified, productive, resource-efficient and highly resilient agriculture and forestry, based on appropriate management of natural resources, in particular land, soils and water, strengthening agricultural activities and the global economy and thereby ensuring sustainable development.

This Initiative invites all stakeholders (producers, scientific community, private sector, NGOs, regional and local authorities, countries, international organizations, development banks, foundations, etc.) to promote and implement practical science-based actions , based on successful experiences.

The Initiative wants to involve stakeholders to develop a global monitoring ground in order to better assess soil carbon stocks and establish appropriate public policies.

For Vincent Brousseau, Head of Impact Financing Solutions at the Grameen Crédit Agricole Foundation, “the Foundation’s choice to become a member of the international initiative 4 per 1000 in September 2022 responds to our wish to work in close collaboration with partners that are committed to promoting the experiences of agricultural communities to strengthen the resilience of their territories. We fully subscribe to the holistic approach of 4 per 1000 to regenerative agriculture as a means to adapt to and deal with climate change, but also as a powerful lever for improving food security and the economic prosperity of farmers.”

For more information on the “4 per 1000” International Initiative, please click here.