Concept Of Microfinance
Microfinance is a category of financial services targeted at individuals and small businesses who lack access to conventional banking and related services. Microfinance initially had a limited definition - the provision of microloans to poor entrepreneurs and small businesses lacking access to credit.
What is Microfinance?
Microfinance, also called microcredit, is a type of banking service that is provided to unemployed or low-income individuals or groups who otherwise would have no other access to financial services. While institutions participating in the area of microfinance most often provide lending (microloans can range from as small as $100 to as large as $25,000), many banks offer additional services, such as checking and savings accounts, and micro-insurance products; and some even provide financial and business education. Ultimately, the goal of microfinance is to give impoverished people an opportunity to become self-sufficient.
Microfinance allows people to take on reasonable small business loans safely, and in a manner that is consistent with ethical lending practices. Although they exist all around the world, the majority of microfinancing operations occur in developing nations, such as Uganda, Indonesia, Serbia, and Honduras. Many microfinance institutions focus on helping women in particular.
How Microfinance Works
Microfinancing organizations support a large number of activities that range from providing the basics—like bank checking and savings accounts—to startup capital for small business entrepreneurs and educational programs that teach the principles of investing. These programs can focus on such skills as bookkeeping, cash-flow management, and technical or professional skills, like accounting. Unlike typical financing situations, in which the lender is primarily concerned with the borrower having enough collateral to cover the loan, many microfinance organizations focus on helping entrepreneurs to succeed.
In many instances, people seeking help from microfinance organizations are first required to take a basic money-management class. Lessons cover understanding interest rates, the concept of cash flow, how financing agreements and savings accounts work, how to budget, and how to manage debt.
Once educated, customers may apply for loans. Just as one would find at a traditional bank, a loan officer helps borrowers with applications, oversees the lending process, and approves loans. The typical loan, sometimes as little as $100, may not seem like much to some people in the developed world. But to many impoverished people, this figure often is enough to start a business or engage in other profitable activities.
Benefits of Microfinance
The World Bank estimates that more than 500 million people have directly or indirectly benefited from microfinance-related operations. The International Finance Corporation (IFC), part of the larger World Bank Group, estimates that, as of 2014, more than 130 million people have directly benefited from microfinance-related operations. However, these operations are only available to approximately 20 percent of the three billion people who qualify as among the world’s poor. In addition to providing microfinancing options, the IFC has helped establish or improve credit reporting bureaus in 30 developing nations. It has also advocated for adding relevant laws in 33 countries that govern financial activities.
The benefits of microfinance extend beyond the direct effects of giving people a source for capital. Entrepreneurs who create successful businesses, in turn, create jobs, trade, and overall economic improvement within a community. Empowering women in particular, as many microfinance organizations do, may lead to more stability and prosperity for families.
Microfinance Products and Services
#Microloans: Microloans (also known as microcredit) are loans that have a small value; most loans are less than $100 in size. These loans are generally issued to finance entrepreneurs who run micro-enterprises in developing countries. Examples of micro-enterprises include basket-making, sewing, street vending and raising poultry. The average global interest rate charged on micro-loans is about 35%. Although this may sound high, it is much lower than other available alternatives (such as informal local money lenders). Moreover, MFIs must charge interest rates that cover the higher costs associated with processing the labor-intensive micro-loan transactions. (Learn more about microfinance in Microfinance: Philanthropy Through Industry.)
#Microsavings: Microsavings accounts allow individuals to store small amounts of money for future use without minimum balance requirements. Like traditional savings accounts in developed nations, micro-savings accounts are tapped by the saver for life needs such as weddings, funerals and old-age supplementary income.
#Micro-Insurance: Individuals living in developing nations have more risks and uncertainties in their lives. For example, there is more direct exposure to natural disasters, such as mudslides, and more health-related risks, such as communicable diseases. Micro-insurance, like its non-micro counterpart, pools risks and helps provide risk management. But unlike its traditional counterpart, micro-insurance allows for insurance policies that have very small premiums and policy amounts. Examples of micro-insurance policies include crop insurance and policies that cover outstanding balances of micro-loans in the event a borrower dies. Due to the high administrative expense ratios, micro-insurance is most efficient for MFIs when premiums are collected together with microloan repayments.