August 12th-15th the 6th African Microfinance Conference hosted by South Africa was held in Durban with the theme “Financial Inclusion: From Policy to Practice” focusing on what practical steps need to be taken to expand financial inclusion. The motivation behind the theme was to address the tremendous challenges in the uptake of financial services. It focused on the practical implementation of policy to design and build value propositions that really speak to the needs of poor and low-income people.
Renowned international speakers, such as Elisabeth Rhyne, of the Accion Centre for Financial Inclusion, David Porteous of Bankable Frontiers Associate, Cas Coovadia, Managing Director, Banking Association of South Africa, and Brigit Helms, author of Access for All, from DAI in Mozambique shared their expertise on financial inclusion.
With one of its core mandates being financial inclusion, UNCDF was a bronze sponsor of the event and made two presentations around two thematic programmes: Microlead and MAP. Moreover, UNCDF’s staff contributed comments throughout the different thematic presentations.
For Microlead, UNCDF Microlead Programme Specialist, Ivana Damjanov presented “MicroLead: Savings-led Approaches to Furthering Financial Inclusion” during a panel entitled: “Customer Centered Business Solutions: Is this the key to financial inclusion?” which included Antonique Koning of CGAP. The presentation included a review of how MicroLead came about, an insight on recent results and an update on MicroLead Expansion and the grantees selected to implement the second phase of the programme. Microlead, UNCDF’s first global thematic initiative, supports the expansion of financial service providers (FSPs) which pursue a savings-led approach in the belief that savings, not credit, will allow low income populations to take control of their complicated financial lives. Initiated in 2008 and currently funded by UNCDF, the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation, The MasterCard Foundation and LIFT Myanmar, Microlead has awarded funding in 19 countries for 26 projects worth $ 42 million.
For MAP, UNCDF MAP Programme Advisor, Kammy Naidoo presented the MAP framework and methodology at a session called Diversifying business models in financial inclusion.” The Making Access to Financial Services Possible (MAP) programme is a diagnostic and programmatic framework to support expanding access to financial services for individuals and micro and small businesses. The framework has been developed by UNCDF in partnership with FinMark Trust and Cenfri and is intended to become a public good that can advance the global financial inclusion agenda. The MAP methodology was very well received from the audience with interest generated in the activity and lessons learned to date at country level as well as the methodology.
Both presentations were well attended by a large audience and generated a lot of interest and several leads both in terms of opportunities to partner in knowledge sharing and knowledge management. During the conference, UNCDF’s team had discussions with several organizations on the MAP agenda, Microlead’s unique focus on savings that is relevant for the SSA region as well as UNCDF’s agriculture finance agenda.