The Grameen Crédit Agricole Foundation signs the Climate Manifesto

Following the official launch of the French Coalition of Foundations for the Climate on November 18, the Grameen Crédit Agricole Foundation signed, alongside 80 other organisations, the Manifesto of the new French Coalition of Foundations for the Climate (CFFC).

Launched by the Centre Français des Fondations and its partners, the Climate Coalition brings together foundations and endowment funds with a common goal:  act together in the fight against climate change. The Coalition will promote the good practices of signatories, produce work on engagement of the philanthropic sector and mobilise human and financial resources to support initiatives to address the climate crisis.

The Foundation and its action in favour of the resilience of rural economies

Through funding to microfinance institutions and investments in enterprises located in rural areas, with a strong social and environmental impact, the Grameen Crédit Agricole Foundation is positioning itself as an actor that promotes the resilience of rural economies in the face of climate change.

With a portfolio of € 87 million as of March 2021, the Foundation mainly supports organisations that contribute to rural development in Africa, Asia and Europe. Thus, out of the 7.3 million beneficiaries of funded microfinance institutions, 85% live in rural areas. In addition, the Foundation supports, through technical assistance, enterprises that promote more sustainable agricultural practices.

With the signing of the Manifesto but also the membership of the French Centre for Funds and Foundations (CFF), the Grameen Crédit Agricole Foundation reaffirms the inclusion of the climate issue in its practices and strategy, and calls for other actors of the inclusive finance sector to commit to this global issue.

 

 

Online Solidarity Bankers missions to be filled

Three online Solidarity Bankers missions are currently to be filled. Solidarity Bankers is a skills volunteering programme launched by the Grameen Crédit Agricole Foundation and Crédit Agricole S.A., open to all Crédit Agricole Group employees. The objective is twofold: on the one hand, to provide technical assistance to microfinance institutions and social impact enterprises financed by the Foundation, and on the other hand, to value the skills of Group employees who want to invest themselves in projects with strong social impact.

The missions can be conducted during the working time of the Solidarity Banker (sponsorship by the employer of the Solidarity Banker) AND / OR during the holidays (volunteering). For the 3 missions below, the Solidarity Bankers will devote a total of 15 working days to the mission. Each selected expert will work remotely and devote the equivalent of one day per week, for 15 weeks, to the mission.

“Digital Strategy” missions in favour of OXUS (Kyrgyzstan)

OXUS Kyrgyzstan (OKG) is a microfinance institution that provides financial services to working poor and underbanked people in Kyrgyzstan. The institution serves 8,000 active borrowers (48% of whom are women and 62% live in rural areas) and manages a portfolio of €6.4 million. The average outstanding loan is €798.

A Solidarity Banker mission is planned for July 2021 to support OKG in the evaluation of its digitalisation processes and the drafting of a new digital strategy. The expert sought is a Crédit Agricole employee with experience in IT project management, fluent in English (knowledge of Russian is a plus).

“Financial management” mission in favour of FATEN (Palestine)

FATEN is a microfinance institution based in Palestine. The institution serves 26,244 active borrowers (34% of whom are women and 68% live in rural areas) and manages a portfolio of €108 million.

The selected Crédit Agricole expert will support FATEN in updating financial procedures, policies and tools. The Solidarity Banker must be fluent in English and have knowledge of international standards relating to financial reporting and in particular, the latest changes to IFRS 16 and IFRS 9. The mission is to be filled as soon as possible.

“Digital Strategy” mission in favour of Smart Credit (Moldova)

Smart Credit is a microfinance institution that provides financial services to socially disadvantaged people and small entrepreneurs in Moldova. The institution has over 3,000 active borrowers (54% of whom are women and 69% are clients in rural areas) and manages a portfolio of €4.4 million.

The Solidarity Banker will help build the digital strategy of Smart Credit. The expert is an employee of the Crédit Agricole group who is fluent in English and with experience in IT project management. The mission is to be filled as soon as possible.

How to apply?

To see the detailed offers of the missions:

  1. Go to the CA Solidaires website “Finding your mission
  2. Enter in the search bar: “Grameen Foundation”. All the Solidarity Leave offers will appear!
  3. Click on the offer of your choice. You will find all the information you need for your application.

More information: carolina.viguet@credit-agricole-sa.fr

KOSSAM and the digital payment for farmers in Senegal

Supported by the Grameen Crédit Agricole Foundation, CA Franche Comté and Amundi, Kossam SDE is a subsidiary of Laiterie du Berger that aims to structure and strengthen the dairy industry in Senegal. In February 2020, Kossam SDE successfully launched the dematerialisation of the “payroll” for more than 850 farmers contributing to the improvement of their living and working conditions. Spotlight on the interview for Portail FinDev of Jonathan Michaud (former Solidarity Banker of CA Franche Comté) Director for the past 3 years of Kossam SDE) and Mamadou Fall, his Deputy Director, who shed light on this transformation.

1. What used to be a typical payroll day before the transition to digital payroll?

Jonathan Michaud & Mamadou Fall: Until February 2020, all farmers were paid in cash during one or two specific paydays. Farmers used to travel to the factory in Richard Toll to collect the money due to them. Firstly, the cash payment was inconvenient for the farmers. They had to arrive early in the morning and sometimes wait all day in high temperatures. In addition, farmers were forced to come to Richard Toll on a specific day to get paid, without being able to make it fit in with their other travel. It was also laborious for Kossam SDE, as the teams had to handle cash for two days with some pressure linked to the waiting time of the farmers, which can lead to errors.

In November 2019, the Kossam SDE team decided to digitalise and the first digital payroll took place in February 2020.

2. What are the concrete benefits of digitalisation for farmers?

JM & MF: We have identified 5 benefits for farmers:

  • Time saving. Today, a farmer no longer has to wait hours to receive the payment.
  • Security. Everyone knew which day the farmers received their pay, which could potentially create a context of insecurity with risks of theft.
  • Flexibility. Now all farmers receive their money on the same date, but collect it when they want.
  • Cost. The majority of farmers do not live in Richard Toll and travelling there has a cost. They can now optimise the cost of their journey by deciding the day they will collect their money.
  • Traceability. Each farmer is identified in our database with his/her telephone number and identity card. We can therefore be sure that it is the farmer who is receiving the money, as we know which telephone number the funds are being sent to.

3. What solution have you put in place with Wizall Money to pay farmers?

JM & MF: The vast majority of our farmers do not have a smartphone. They have a basic phone that can only receive and send calls and SMS. We therefore opted for a code sent directly to the farmers’ phones. With this code and their ID, farmers go to the Wizall Money kiosk of their choice to withdraw their money. The beneficiaries (farmers) pay the costs associated with this service.

The introduction of this solution has clearly removed a considerable number of constraints for farmers, including time and organisation. In addition, we feared that farmers would be reluctant to pay for their money. However, the question of cost was not mentioned. On the contrary, it costs them much less than paying for transport to Richard Toll on a specific day of the month. We have not had any complaints in this regard.

4. More than a year after the digitisation was implemented, where do you stand? What is the next step?

JM & MF: The digitisation of the payroll was implemented just before the Covid-19 hit Senegal in March 2020, where drastic measures were quickly taken: curfews, forbidden gatherings, etc. Without digitisation, farmers would not have been able to move and would not have been paid.

Today, we are moving on to the second and final stage of payroll transformation. Indeed, there are 2 disadvantages to the SMS codes that our farmers receive on their phones: you need to have your own phone, which is not the case for all our farmers, and you also need a network. The main problem was that some people never received the code, so we had to keep paying them in cash.

To deal with this situation, we have provided all our farmers with an individual NFC card. The payment will be sent to this card in an electronic purse. Farmers can then go to a Wizall Money kiosk, hand over their card, enter their PIN and withdraw all or part of their money. There are no more network constraints and no more obligation to withdraw all the money paid in. This major innovation allows us to enter into new uses and services that are a form of micro-savings and passive savings.

From now on, we will be working on various subjects that digitalisation will enable us to tackle more effectively and with greater peace of mind: access to health insurance, development of savings and financial education.

Full interview in French on FinDev

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(1) The Grameen Crédit Agricole Foundation and Crédit Agricole Franche Comté, shareholders of Laiterie du Berger, supported the creation of Kossam SDE as part of a technical assistance mission Solidarity Bankers, a skills volunteering programme of the Crédit Agricole Group. An agricultural engineer from the Regional Bank, who led the mission in 2018, left for 3 years to coordinate the launch of Kossam SDE. He is Jonathan Michaud, today General Manager of Kossam SDE.

Solidarity Bankers missions to be filled in Georgia, Kyrgyzstan and South Africa

Launched in June 2018 at the initiative of the Grameen Crédit Agricole Foundation and Crédit Agricole SA, Solidarity Bankers is a skills volunteering programme aimed at all Crédit Agricole Group employees in favour of microfinance institutions and social impact businesses supported by the Foundation. Three new missions are to be filled in 2021 in Georgia, Kyrgyzstan and South Africa.

“Marketing Strategy” mission in Georgia

Lazika Capital, one of the leading microfinance institutions in Georgia. Established in 2000, Lazika provides financial services to low-income people, smallholder farmers and microentrepreneurs. The organisation operates through 18 branches, mainly in rural areas of Georgia (70% of active borrowers are rural).

The Solidarity Bankers mission aims to support Lazika in the development of a marketing plan for mid-2021-2022. If the health context allows it, the mission will be carried out in June or July 2021 in Georgia. If not, the mission will be postponed.

“Social and environmental performance” mission in Kyrgyzstan

Salym is a microfinance institution that provides affordable loans and deposits to support income-generating activities of low-income populations in Kyrgyzstan. The organisation currently has 23 branches across Kyrgyzstan and serves over 18,000 active borrowers, 52% of whom are women and 70% of whom live in rural areas.

A two-week Solidarity Bankers mission is planned to support Salym in managing its social and environmental performance. If the health context allows it, the mission will be carried out in September or October 2021 in Kyrgyzstan. If not, the mission can be carried out online.

“AML-CFT” mission in South Africa

SEF is a microfinance institution established in 1992 that provides financial and non-financial services to poor people in South Africa. The institution has 225,317 active borrowers (100% of women in living rural areas).

A Solidarity Bankers mission is to be filled to support SEF in the framing and training of its key employees on the risks associated with money laundering and the financing of terrorism. The field mission will take place in South Africa over a two-weeks period, if the sanitary conditions linked to Covid-19 allow it.

Two online missions are still available

A first “digital / IT” mission is available to support Smart Credit, a microfinance institution funded by the Grameen Crédit Agricole Foundation in Moldova. The mission of the Solidarity Banker will be to help build the digital strategy of Smart Credit. A second “financial management” mission is to be filled in favour of FATEN, a microfinance institution located in Palestine. The Crédit Agricole expert will support FATEN in updating financial procedures, policies and tools. These missions will be carried out remotely at the rate of one day per week, for 15 weeks.

How to apply?

To access the detailed offers of the missions:

  1. Go to the CA Solidaires website “Find a project
  2. Enter in the search bar: “Grameen Foundation”. All the Solidarity Bankers’ offers will appear!
  3. Click on the offer of your choice. You will find all the information you need to apply.
Further information: carolina.viguet@credit-agricole-sa.fr

OSHUN steps up its action to promote access to water in Senegal and Burkina Faso

More than 2 billion people around the world lack access to safely-managed drinking water services (*). In Sub-Saharan Africa, 40% of the population does not have access to water, mainly in rural areas and 135 million people, mainly women and girls, travel more than 30 minutes per day to have access to drinking water.

It is in that context that OSHUN, created at the end of 2017 and a partner of the Grameen Crédit Agricole Foundation since 2018, deploys an innovative water access solution in rural areas. Through an economic model based on local entrepreneurship, OSHUN provides accessible quality water services at water kiosks, running on solar energy. These kiosks are managed by local entrepreneurs working as franchisees and integrate a digital component that optimizes their good management. This service, which is expected to develop widely in West Africa, has started in rural and peri-urban areas of Senegal and Burkina Faso.

Today, in addition to the kiosks, OSHUN is also working on installing water treatment systems in schools and health centres funded by public, private and solidarity partners. In collaboration with the NGO Marseille Provence Afrique Coopération, OSHUN has installed, since 2018, 120 water treatment systems in schools and health centers in Senegal. To date, this project serves around 40,000 beneficiaries with access to free drinking water. In addition to the installation and maintenance of equipment, OSHUN, in conjunction with community relays, sets up public awareness activities to help change behaviours. In the same spirit, the German Cooperation Agency for development (GIZ) has just ordered a turnkey project to OSHUN for the installation of 30 devices in health posts located in areas without electricity in Senegal.

In Burkina Faso, OSHUN is strengthening its action alongside the Société du Canal de Provence (SCP) as prime contractors in the rehabilitation of water pumps and the installation of water kiosks in 27 villages in the municipality of Bobo Dioulasso (second largest city in the country). Thus, the populations will be able to have access in the same place to raw water for domestic use and treated water for consumption. This project, which is to be completed in April 2021, will reach nearly 70,000 beneficiaries.

More information on OSHUN here.

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(*) Nations Unies

The Grameen Crédit Agricole Foundation acts for financial inclusion in India

©Crédit Agricole/Getty

With about 190 million adults without a bank account, India has –after China– the second-largest unbanked population in the world (World Bank). The microfinance sector has become a key instrument to fight financial exclusion in the country by providing financial and non-financial services to people excluded from the banking system. The sector has shown spectacular development: it reaches 60 million borrowers, for a total portfolio of 27 billion euros.

To support the development of microfinance in India, Grameen Crédit Agricole Foundation has granted a loan of 3 million euros over 3 years to Pahal Financial Services Private Limited, an Ahmedabad (Gujarat) based microfinance institution. Since its creation in 2011, Pahal has served nearly 750,000 customers, mainly women borrowers, across 167 branches with total assets under management of 81 million euros. Today, Pahal is one of the fastest growing microfinance institutions in India thanks to innovative and diverse product offering for low-income people.

“With this new partnership, the Grameen Crédit Agricole Foundation strengthens its action in favour of financial inclusion and women empowerment in India. This funding is our first direct exposure in India, using the External Commercial Borrowing channel recently opened by the Reserve Bank of India. The company has shown in many occasions its resilience and we trust that Pahal, its clients and the whole industry are recovering fast from this crisis”, said Caroline Brandt, Senior Investment Manager at the Foundation.

“Grameen Credit Agricole Foundation’s  debt line is a validation of Pahal’s business model and displays the resilience of the microfinance sector in India”, said Kartik Mehta, Co-Founder and Managing Director. “We at Pahal are determined to be a part of financial inclusion agenda for the vulnerable sections of the society. This money will be used to onlend to the women borrowers of Pahal”, added Purvi Bhavsar, Co-Founder and Managing Director.

The Foundation’s financial support comes at a time when the microfinance sector is emerging out of the Covid-19 crisis. After lockdown relaxation, the anticipated microcredit demands are expected to trigger swift recovery of the sector. Pahal, in partnership with the Foundation, will support its borrowers to help them restart their businesses.

SINAPI Aba and its work for women entrepreneurship in Ghana

Launched by the Canadian government in 2017, the FINEDEV (Financial Inclusion for Enterprise Development) programme promotes business development through financial inclusion in Ghana. The programme is implemented by Sinapi Aba Savings and Loans, a non-bank financial institution supported by the Grameen Crédit Agricole Foundation.

FINEDEV aims to improve access to finance, financial education and entrepreneurial training for small and medium enterprises (SMEs), women and vulnerable groups in Ghana. For Sinapi, the focus is on women entrepreneurship as 70% of its clients are women.

Networking and entrepreneurship training

The programme is based on two strands of action. The first is networking through events and training for women entrepreneurs. Through these meetings, participants have the opportunity to share their experience, learn about entrepreneurship and connect with other local women entrepreneurs. Since the beginning of the programme, Sinapi has organised 310 networking events and 447 trainings for more than 30 000 participants.

A second strand is the “Women Mentorship” programme. It brings together women entrepreneurs who have already received business training from Sinapi Aba, with less experienced women. Each “mentor” woman advises and supports other women entrepreneurs in building their businesses. The programme has already brought together 156 participants, including 52 mentor women and 104 coached entrepreneurs.

With FINEDEV, Sinapi is strengthening its action in favour of women’s financial inclusion in an innovative and sustainable way. Initially planned for a period of 4 years, FINEDEV has been extended for another year and is expected to end in 2022. After the official end of the project, Sinapi Aba plans to continue supporting its clients’ projects by maintaining its mentoring and networking activities for women.

[Covid-19] The Grameen Crédit Agricole Foundation in 2020

Eric Campos, Grameen Crédit Agricole Foundation

In 2020, the Foundation supported 80 microfinance institutions and social enterprises in 39 countries around the world. With the Covid-19 pandemic, the Foundation established a permanent dialogue with all the partner organisations and adapted its financial and technical support. The Foundation also coordinated with other key players of the inclusive finance sectors to develop commun solutions and better protect the microfinance institutions and their clients. Spotlight on an interview to Eric Campos, Managing Director of the Foundation, and some key figures of the activity in 2020.

The Covid-19 crisis has affected the microfinance sector around the world

Eric Campos: 2020 has been a very challenging year for the partners of the Grameen Crédit Agricole Foundation, microfinance institutions and social environmental impact enterprises. Very trying because the final beneficiaries, who are very dependent on sectors such as trade, agriculture and craft, had to deal with lockdown measures and therefore had the greatest difficulty in developing their income generating activities.

The Foundation has adapted itself to better support entrepreneurs in the field

EC: The Foundation’s teams focused on all actions that could allow these institutions, these enterprises to save time and adapt to the economic effects of this crisis. At the international level, we coordinated an agreement with international funders to avoid a liquidity crisis in the microfinance sector. At the Foundation level, we have granted a number of rollovers, we have supported institutions and enterprises by organising technical assistance missions to enable them to improve on risk management and on treasury management. We have been present throughout this year, alongside our long-standing partner institutions of the Foundation.

What prospects for 2021?

EC: In 2021, we are still in a crisis context. We are seeing some small signs of economic recovery in about a third of the countries in which the Foundation operates. In 2021, the Foundation will strengthen its technical assistance programme. We will continue to finance our partners, to support them, and we are cautious but confident in the economic recovery that we are already starting to see. Our commitment: help our partners get through this global crisis.

 

One Year On: What a Year of Surveys Tell Us About Covid-19 and microfinance

Maxime Borgogno, Grameen Crédit Agricole Foundation

Spotlight on the interview of Maxime Borgogno for FinDev. Maxime is Investment Manager for the Asia and Central Europe region at Grameen Crédit Agricole Foundation.

Since the beginning of the pandemic, Grameen Crédit Agricole Foundation has been monitoring how the microfinance sector is responding to the crisis caused by Covid-19. One year later, what have you learned?

Maxime Borgogno : While the immediate consequences microfinance institutions (MFIs) faced were an increase in portfolio at risk and a reduction in their portfolio, the operational crisis did not lead to a total failure of the sector as feared at the beginning. In fact, we have seen many MFIs proactively adapting to the new context: they took adequate management measures while maintaining a responsible approach with their clients. Only a small proportion of surveyed institutions had to lay off staff during the crisis, and the ones in the most affected countries have successfully transitioned to remote systems. Most MFIs implemented loan restructuring to relieve affected clients. Some, especially in Southeast Asia, provided customers with emergency kits (food, sanitary equipment, etc.). They even explored new opportunities such as digital channels for loan repayment to adapt to the situation.

In general, MFIs remain optimistic about the future, based on a good understanding of current challenges and the experience built in 2020. While the crisis is not over and there are still challenges ahead, the sector has the capacity to meet them.

What are some of the key challenges that lie ahead? Why do you think the sector has the capacity to overcome them?

MB: The situation remains unpredictable and depends on the country. A MFI may come to face significant operational constraints very quickly, which will limit its activity. The latest data shows that nearly 75% of MFIs are facing a higher risk portfolio than before the crisis. Therefore, they will have to find a balance between carefully managing this risk while continuing to disburse new loans to their clients. It is now clear that the Covid-19 crisis has disrupted certain sectors, companies’ structures and ways of doing business. MFIs will need to account for these major changes in their strategy for the coming years.

Over the past year, we have seen MFIs remain fully committed to their social mission. They have proven their resilience and capacity to adapt during an unprecedented crisis. With poverty levels increasing due to the crisis, the mission of microfinance is more relevant than ever.

How did you monitor the situation over the past year?

MB: We launched the first monthly survey in March 2020 with 75 MFIs we support. The objective was to gather first impressions on the situation as well as the potential impact on their activities and their clients. In June 2020, we joined forces with ADA and Inpulse to expand the reach of the survey to more than 100 MFIs, including in Latin America and the Caribbean, where the Foundation does not have a presence. Since September, we have moved towards a quarterly format to avoid overloading the institutions in a period of resumption of their activities. The next survey will be in March.

The survey results, as well as other articles related to the Covid-19 crisis, are available on The Covid-19 Observatory, a space created by the Foundation at the onset of the pandemic.

Microfinance institutions often don’t have the capacity to respond to surveys, especially when they have a major crisis to deal with. What helped you to continue gathering data among them?

MB: From the very beginning, we chose not to ask MFIs detailed financial information, but rather to gather their impressions and observations on the impact of the crisis. We deliberately kept the number of questions low and made sure they were as clear as possible. We also avoided requesting the same information they send us in their regular monthly reports.

We insist on a high level of communication with our partners, so we share the results of the surveys with them as soon as they are available and remain open to their feedback in this process. Comments from our respondents have helped us to adapt the wording of the questions and the content of the questionnaire. We believe that their involvement in the process is a key motivator for our partner MFIs to continue participating in the survey.

How do you see this crisis shaping the future of microfinance? Are you worried about the future of the sector?

MB: 2020 was a historic year that demonstrated the resilience of the microfinance sector. MFIs innovated and strengthened their services to protect their clients. At the same time, lenders and other stakeholders coordinated among themselves to adopt the most suitable measures to support MFIs. The last survey we conducted on the impact of the Covid-19 crisis reveals that most institutions expect their activity to grow in 2021, in terms of both portfolio volume and number of clients.

However, many of the most affected institutions will need support from their shareholders and lenders. As credit risk gradually translates into losses in 2021, the responsiveness of investors will be fundamental and is a forthcoming topic for the Foundation’s Covid-19 Observatory.

The crisis is not yet behind us, but we are encouraged for the future of the sector. Digital transformation, coordination between stakeholders and innovation will be essential to strengthen the resilience and impact of microfinance.

Source: FinDev

SSNUP programme finances its first agricultural project in Senegal

©FGCA/Godong

To support small-scale farmers, the Swiss Agency for Development and Cooperation and the Luxembourg Directorate for Development Cooperation and Humanitarian Action, under the coordination of ADA, have launched the SSNUP (Smallholder Safety Net Upscaling Programme). With a budget of €55 million over 10 years, the programme aims to sustainably strengthen the safety nets of smallholder farmers in Africa, Latin America and Asia by stimulating the development of agricultural value chains.

The programme draws on the technical assistance knowledge and expertise of impact investment funds already active in this area. The Grameen Crédit Agricole Foundation is one of the impact investors in charge of the SSNUP implementation. It will provide its expertise in technical assistance to the organisations it supports – microfinance institutions and social enterprises– in order to design and develop financial and non-financial solutions for agricultural risks mitigation and transfer of the different value chain actors.

An impact agricultural project in Senegal

The first organisation supported by the Foundation within the programme is SFA (Sénégalaise des Filières Alimentaires), a social enterprise that works for the development of an inclusive rice value chain in Senegal. Created in 2013, SFA produces white rice from paddy cultivated by small producers in the Senegal River Valley. It provides them with technical support through training on best agricultural practices and facilitates their access to the market and to financing by putting them in relation with local lenders.

Despite the technical support provided by SFA, the small-scale producers’ yields remained below their potential. This is mainly because farmers are still reluctant to implement the agricultural practices promoted by SFA without experiencing their positive effects first.

The SSNUP will strengthen this technical support for producers through a technical assistant mission with a budget of €11,000. This 6-month project aims to create 20 demonstration fields in SFA’s operation areas, in which best agricultural practices will be implemented. These reference fields will allow training some sixty producers on the best practices to optimise their production and to demonstrate to all producers in the area the positive impacts of these practices on agricultural yields and production quality. Exchange sessions and training led by the trained producers will enable them to share their learning with over 2,000 small-scale producers.

The expected results of this project are based on 3 pillars: capacity building of the trained farmers; increasing production and its quality for the trained farmers; increasing the income of the trained farmers and their households. This high impact project will contribute directly to the rice value chain development and food security in Senegal.