By Killian Grippon & Chloé Liquard, Grameen Crédit Agricole Foundation
On June 8th, the Grameen Crédit Agricole Foundation welcomed partners and entities from the Crédit Agricole group to present the Foundation’s businesses and discuss its actions for a better-shared economy.
The day was full of exchanges and lessons, with presentations from the Foundation’s team members, interventions from Jean-Marie Sander, Chairman of the Foundation, Jean-Michel Severino, Administrator of the Foundation, and Sébastien Duquet, OXUS Managing Director, a network of microfinance institutions supported by the Foundation.
This open day reaffirmed the Foundation’s commitment to rigour, engagement, and sharing in favour of inclusive finance. Taking part in this event allowed us to be completely immersed in the world of the Foundation during the first days of our internship.
The world of finance shaken by global challenges
Climate change, security, migration… The world of finance is influenced by a complex range of interdependent features. Climate change will continue to transform politics, security, and the socio-economic context. Getting access to resources is increasingly difficult, which exacerbates tensions, inequality and conflicts. The number of refugees is on the rise: the International Organization for Migration predicts that there will be 200 million refugees by 2050. World’s population is growing: several studies forecast that there will be around 10 billion people on Earth by 2050. Faced with such demographic growth, many questions arise regarding the abilities to feed, accommodate, and guarantee the economic and social integration of billions of people.
What can be done regarding this alarming estimate? There is an urgent need to mobilize resources, to act in partnership and to integrate these social and environmental challenges into the economy of today and tomorrow. This integrated approach is at the heart of inclusive finance and of the actions of the Grameen Crédit Agricole Foundation. When we joined the Foundation team, we discovered its partnership approach, based on adaptability and accountability to better meet the needs of marginalized populations. For us, this is the finance of the future, that captures the diversity of present and future challenges and that adapts to a changing world.
The Foundation, a key actor for inclusive finance
Since its creation in 2008, the Foundation has worked in favour of developing inclusive finance by supporting microfinance institutions (MFI) and companies like social businesses all around the world. Jean-Marie Sander, Chairman of the Foundation, opened the day by reaffirmed this strong and common commitment to developing a better-shared economy. During the day, the Foundation’s team members presented their roles, the projects and the actions of the Foundation. As newcomers in the microfinance and social sphere, by the end of the day, we shared the same observation: this field is more complex than it looks.
For example, the range of financing tools and services offered and developed is wide and adapted to the specific needs of microfinance institutions. The African Facility, an initiative carried out with the French Development Agency (FDA), exemplifies how the Foundation’s offer has evolved towards more global support for the MFI. Thus, after the first stage of the programme enabling the support of 16 rural MFI in Sub-Saharan Africa, the second phase will take place between 2017 and 2020 and will facilitate financing and granting technical assistance to over 20 institutions.
The Foundation also reinforced its links with the Crédit Agricole entities. Therefore, guarantee schemes are being developed with Group members in Egypt, Morocco, Serbia, and India. A long-term financing of €14 million granted by the Crédit Agricole Corporate Investment Bank will allow the Foundation to reinforce its actions in upcoming years. Crédit Agricole Indosuez Wealth (Asset Management) will manage the Investment Funds, for which the Foundation has an advisory mandate. To mention a final partnership agreement, the skills volunteering programme “Banquier solidaire” between Crédit Agricole SA and the Foundation was launched just a week before the Open Day. As part of this programme, the collaborators of the Group will be able to go on a mission to help the MFI and social businesses supported by the Foundation. This is the first time that such a partnership between the Crédit Agricole and the Foundation is launched.
Promoting inclusive finance also involves raising awareness about challenges brought about by climate change in the rural sphere. Improving rural producers’ ability for resilience is as crucial as facilitating access to financing to ensure the sustainability of the agricultural sector. This is the Foundation’s approach that is implemented not only through technical assistance, but also through its activities surrounding the agricultural microinsurance. The Foundation launched a pilot project of microinsurance in Mali to bolster RMCR, one of its partner MFI, to offer an insurance for drought risks to its borrowers. The project must tackle some challenges, but it will continue to progress in order to make the product more affordable and adapted.
Exchanging with Sébastien Duquet, Managing Director of OXUS, a MFI network intervening in post-conflict zones, allowed us to better apprehend the synergy between financial inclusion and humanitarian actions. Getting access to microcredit services is essential in the context of economic revival. Nevertheless, disparities in terms of social performance remain, including on gender and rurality, which is a significant challenge.
Perspectives: leverage impact and work in partnership
What conclusions have we drawn from this encounter? First, the Open Day allowed us to have a better understanding of the Foundation’s role and the ways in which it is committed for a more inclusive and responsible economy. Furthermore, several strategic focuses for the upcoming years can be distinguished: partnerships, supporting for the agricultural world and a responsible approach.
Indeed, the Foundation is focused on a partnership approach. Fighting against poverty is a responsibility that must be shared by different actors. The Foundation will continue to work with private, public and social actors to increase its impact and extend its geographical coverage. Developing the agricultural world will remain a priority for the Foundation, by supporting microfinance in rural areas and by encouraging social entrepreneurship. Finally, the Foundation will continue to promote a responsible approach for its activities.
To wrap up the day, Jean-Michel Severino, Administrator of the Foundation, gave a powerful speech on the issues at stakes for development in Africa. Food insecurity, rapid population growth, and shifting markets: the African continent has to face several major challenges and the Foundation and its partners have an important role to play.
This Open Day was the first of many events that the Foundation will organize throughout the year. These “Meetings for a shared economy” will be a platform for exchanging and sharing experiences with the Foundation’s partners and we look forward to being part of it.