What is Microfinance? Meaning.
Microfinance is the supply of small loans and other financial services to people with a low income who would otherwise have no access to credit from traditional banks and financial institutions. Microfinance is seen by some as a viable solution to reduce poverty, enabling those at the Bottom of the Pyramid to reshape their destiny.
Microfinance basically consists of offering small loans to poor working people of developing countries, who carrying out their daily business activities, are able to repay their debts at the end of a fixed period, usually a day or a week. The value of the loans generally ranges from 1$ to a maximum of 200$. The money is lent from local organizations, so called Microfinance Institutions (MFI), when certain conditions are met.
The concept of microfinance when applied to insurance services take the name of Microinsurance.
Traditionally banks were unable to serve the base of the pyramid, because the fixed costs (assessment of potential borrowers, their repayment prospects and security; administration of outstanding loans, collecting from delinquent borrowers, etc) were too high in the case of small loans. Also poor people typically have few assets to serve as collateral.
On the other hand it was clear that the poor people represented a huge potential market in need for financial services that wasn’t served at all.
What are the Needs of Poor People?
Microfinance experts thus studied patterns and specific needs of a typical base of the pyramid customer. Stuart Rutherford in his recent book "The Poor and Their Money", cited 4 types of needs of the poor (compare: Maslow’s Hierarchy of Needs, Packhard’s Hidden Needs, and McClelland's Theory of Needs):
Origin of Microfinance. History
The history of microfinance goes back to 1974 when Professor of Economics at University of Chittagong, Dr. Muhammad Yunus, with the intent of finding a practical solution to poverty, experienced the first microfinance attempt himself. During a visit to a rural village in Bangladesh, he lent 27$ to a community of 42 people who were otherwise unable to make out a living. The result was that those people were able to invest that amount in their small woodwork business, sell their products, buy food and other basic stuff and give to the money back to the professor with interest. Inspired by his successful experience and after in-depth studies on the topic, he started a professional micro-financial activity and in 1983 he created the Grameen Rural Bank, the first Microfinance Institution that today accounts for 1 billion $ in loans spread to over 7 millions borrowers.
Professor Muhammad Yunus and Grameen Bank were awarded the Nobel Peace Prize 2006 for 'for their efforts to create economic and social development from below'.
During the 80’s and the 90’s, after many researches and experiments proving the business viability and profitability of Yunus' concept, microfinance institutions grew constantly in number till topping 3000 in 2006. Most microfinance institutions started their business as non-profit organizations sustained by grants and subsidies, and have been able to turn into for-profit corporations attracting investors globally.
Major banks, attracted by high growth rates, started instituting funds focused on microfinance that allow investors from all over the world to invest in this new industry, movement or Microfinance Channel, as it has been defined by management scholars.
The Microfinance Concept in More Detail
The concept of microfinance is based on a primary principle holding that most human beings will do their best to be well off, provided they have the required tools. This is one of the reason, combined with a strict selection of borrowers, why microcredit has the highest repayment rate if compared to all other form of loans issued by traditional banks.
Unfortunately, studies demonstrated that microfinance cannot work everywhere and not everybody is a good candidate for microcredit. In order to be useful and successful for the borrower while viable and profitable for an institution, the following microfinance conditions must be met.
Effects of Microfinance
Besides helping to reduce poverty, the following effects were found:
This ends our Microfinance summary and forum.
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