Monday, May 12, 2008

Does microfinance directly help reduce poverty?

Ummm. No, says Severino, CEO of the AFD. Rather the effect is kind of indirect- microfinance helps bring about changes conducive to poverty reduction but it directly do not eradicate poverty. More here:

...It is important to see microfinance for what it is: a tool that has proven its remarkable efficiency in reducing financial vulnerability but that cannot, on its own, eradicate poverty - and that is often used with a more social than purely productive end. It efficiently supports the sense of creativity and initiative of the poorest, women in particular, but cannot generate the conditions for this sense of initiative, offer opportunities for investments when those do not exist, nor overcome by its own the huge physical, political and cultural obstacles that development countries are facing in their quest for economic wealth. As Pr. Yunus advocates, microfinance can contribute to change the structures of capitalism. But it cannot be a substitute for investment in sectors such as education or health. It should therefore be used as part of a global public policy to develop finance, services, infrastructure and more broadly bring new opportunities for the poorest.

...Overestimating the impact of microfinance could lead to a situation where its real benefits are overlooked.

...Promising new projects are being developed, such as the “mobile banking” project in Kenya and South Africa, or micro-insurance systems (protection against climate risk for farmers, health coverage for the poorest groups). Any further growth should, however, imply better structuring and regulation of the sector, including the introduction of monitoring systems and effective guarantees against risks