Friday, 19 March 2010

MICROFINANCE SUMMIT IN KENYA- WHAT DOES IT MEAN FOR AFRICA?



MICROFINANCE SUMMIT IN KENYA- WHAT DOES IT MEAN FOR AFRICA?

April 7th to 10th, 2010, the microfinance player’s world over gather together in Nairobi for the Africa Middle East micro credit summit. The summit, first time to be held in Kenya will be a great honor to the country for its pioneering work in the microfinance sector in Africa. From the late 80s and early 90s, Kenya Rural Enterprise Program (now KREP bank) led the way in the provision of innovative financial services targeting the poor and the unbankable. In the late 90s, Equity bank, a Kenyan owned and managed financial institution sprung out to take a desired, rightful position in resuscitating micro and small entrepreneurs hitherto lacking access to finance. The bank downscaled and re-engineered a banking revolution that has energized the global microfinance sector and in particular Kenya. Equity bank has in the recent past been a recipient of many microfinance awards world over for its innovation and commitment to end poverty through provision of well designed and need based financial services.

In Kenya, the microfinance sector has evolved for the last 20 years, and has recorded notable gains. The sector has transformed itself from an insignificant player in the national and international psyche, to its current level of innovation, sophistication and acceptability. To tap the potential the industry has and extend the depth and breadth of outreach, the Government of Kenya mainstreamed and transformed the sector by setting aside funds to reach the marginalized youth and women through the Youth and the Women Enterprise funds respectively. The government has further enacted the microfinance act. The act brings on board a regulatory environment that hitherto has been missing in the past leading to collapse and defrauding of many Kenyans by these institutions.

The Micro credit summit therefore, will be held on a backdrop of many challenges that continue to trouble the sector in Africa. Key among the challenges include: conflicts in many parts of Africa, government policies that discourage entrepreneurship, corruption, poor infrastructure, unethical financial service providers, lack of innovation and creativity leading to one size fits all kind of financial products all in a sector that thrives in replication without putting into perspective a peoples culture. These among others, are the challenges the participants must face head-on.

The theme of the summit is “committed to ending poverty”. This is spot-on and especially in sub Saharan Africa, where poverty looms large. Research has now proved that microfinance when properly designed, innovatively delivered and target clientele properly defined has the potential of graduating so many out of poverty. This is what the delegates must crack in four days – failure to do this, would reduce the summit to just another outing and a holiday for some. It’s in the delegate’s interest therefore, to ensure the resolutions that come out of the meeting will help end extreme poverty that our people continue to live through.

Over 2500 delegates from over 40 countries are expected to attend the 2010 Africa Middle East micro credit summit in Nairobi. The four day event brings together government, regulators, investors, donors and microfinance practitioners to discuss the role of financial services in poverty alleviation. Among the Key participants are the great of the microfinance sector such as Muhammad Yunus founder and president of Grameen Bank who together with his institution (Grameen bank) were awarded the 2006 Nobel peace prize for their pioneering work on microcredit. He is also a recipient of the 2009 US presidential Medal of Freedom. This is the highest civilian honor in the United States. He, among others is the genius behind the innovative co-guarantee mechanism that has relegated traditional collaterals to the peripheral of lending. You no longer need land or any other collateral that the poor lack – but rather your social standing in the community is enough to secure the much needed capital. The lending innovation has drastically reduced the gap between the rich and the poor and deepened financial services access in the developing world.

With this, the organizers, Association for Microfinance Institutions (AMFI), the host of the summit must ensure we prove to the doubting world the Kenya is not about politics and impunity. We have more to offer the world than the violence we witnessed two years ago. For the 4 days, that the spotlight will be on Kenya, the organizers must ensure the world see the other side of Kenya, the beautiful Kenya with lovely people who no matter the hardships, drought and selfish politics, have hope, dream for a better tomorrow and work hard for it. That is the Kenya the world does not know, yet the microcredit summit organizers should make them see.

Charles Njoroge

42 comments:

Anonymous said...

Charles,

Great - lets see what the summit will bring to Kenya.


Mzee

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