MicroLead partner ACCU, the Association of Asian Confederation of Credit Unions, operates throughout Asia with the mission to improve people’s lives through credit unions offering self-help, self-governance, and self-responsibility. Working with the MicroLead program, the association greenfielded operations in Myanmar. By December, 2016, ACCU had nearly 19,000 members in 36 savings and credit co-ops. Additionally, 97% of its Myanmar operations are in rural areas. The savings and credit co-ops are all owned and managed by their members.

With any start-up, understanding the market is key. ACCU segmented its target clients into nine main groups: salary earners, religious groups, entrepreneurs, farmers, students, professionals, youth and children, low-income and unemployed, and retirees. Currently, it focuses on reaching out to self-help groups, which then link into the group network. In addition to loans, ACCU offers voluntary savings that can be withdrawn at any time, as well as term savings accounts, and “Youth Bee” savings, for children saving in school. Like many development finance institutions, ACCU has identified a knowledge gap when it comes to financial literacy, and is focusing now on savings and credit plus education to help members change their financial behavior for the better.

Alliance began operations in Myanmar in 2014 with technical assistance from AMFIN and BASIX via MicroLead. In-depth interviews were conducted to understand the asset-building strategies of potential clients, as well as their financial vulnerabilities, current use of financial tools and services, and overall financial knowledge. The program has maintained a strong focus on customer research, for example researching demand for micro-insurance and agricultural products, and conducting regular client satisfaction studies.

In 2016, the program began implementing financial education. Once again, market research was a critical component in developing a strong program. Alliance’s research questions focused on the demand for financial education and what types of financial education were needed, as well as the financial education touchpoints, methods and messages. Through this, the team identified client knowledge gaps to determine the best delivery chain for financial education. Today, financial education is incorporated into the group lending process and is provided as an extra service to individual clients.

MicroLead partner ASA’s operations in Myanmar began in May, 2016 with the objective of reaching 290,225 clients in five years. Its focus is savings-led microfinance services and strengthening local institutional capacity. The institution has already far exceeded its target of 54,000 depositors by March, 2017, reaching 76,230 depositors by December, 2016.

Demand for savings products in Myanmar are high. However, regulations restrict deposit-taking. ASA is continuing to ready itself to offer savings however, and its savings study revealed that nearly 95% of respondents were interested in long-term deposits, and nearly 49% in a savings product for their children’s education.

You can find MicroLead's Myanmar publications below:

Agricultural Value Chain in Myanmar: This paper highlights the problems related to agricultural finance in Myanmar and proposes a solution that will benefit everyone in the agriculture value chain, from farmers to regulating institutions, improving their role in the chain.

ASA Microfinance Myanmar: This paper showcases the Association for Social Advancement (ASA) model which has achieved much success in fostering the development of strong financial habits throughout Asia, applying a standardised microfinance model.

Experiences of Savings and Credit Cooperative Members: The Asian Confederation of Credit Unions (ACCU) is one of UNCDF's three MicroLead partners in Myanmar, having kickstarted and supported the growth and capacity-enhancement of 33 Savings and Credit Cooperatives in the country. This publication shares some of the more intimate stories and transformational experiences of the cooperative members in Ayeyarwady and Bago regions.

Fostering Savings and Credit Cooperatives in Myanmar: This paper showcases the successful Asia-wide ACCU model of creating savings-led financial cooperatives and how SCCs can function in Myanmar as an alternative to the traditional Myanmar cooperative movement.

Microfinance for Poverty Alleviation in Myanmar: In Myanmar the microfinance sector has developed rapidly since the government enacted a Microfinance Law in November 2011, but MFIs still play a very minor role in the provision of financial services in the country. The overall level of financial inclusion remains very low, with only 30% of adults using regulated financial services. The rural usage of financial services (53%) exceeds the urban usage (45%), which is a reversal of the normal global pattern.

Savings Mobilization in Myanmar: This paper focuses on the opportunities and challenges of mobilizing savings deposits in Myanmar. The purpose of the paper is to answer the following questions: 1) Which FSPs mobilize the highest volume of savings and why? 2) What are the inhibitors of mobilizing savings in Myanmar? and 3) In particular, what are the implications of the 15-percent regulated floor on deposits for microfinance institutions?

Photo (top) courtesy of ASA.

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