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What is microfinance? FAQ
To most, microfinance means providing very poor families with very small loans (microcredit) to help them engage in productive activities or grow their tiny businesses. Over time, microfinance has come to include a broader range of services (credit, savings, insurance, etc.) as we have come to realize that the poor and the very poor who lack access to traditional formal financial institutions require a variety of financial products.
Microcredit came to prominence in the 1980s, although early experiments date back 30 years in Bangladesh, Brazil and a few other countries. The important difference of microcredit was that it avoided the pitfalls of an earlier generation of targeted development lending, by insisting on repayment, by charging interest rates that could cover the costs of credit delivery, and by focusing on client groups whose alternative source of credit was the informal sector. Emphasis shifted from rapid disbursement of subsidized loans to prop up targeted sectors towards the building up of local, sustainable institutions to serve the poor. Microcredit has largely been a private (non-profit) sector initiative that avoided becoming overtly political, and as a consequence, has outperformed virtually all other forms of development lending.
Traditionally, microfinance was focused on providing a very standardized credit product. The poor, just like anyone else, need a diverse range of financial instruments to be able to build assets, stabilize consumption and protect themselves against risks. Thus, we see a broadening of the concept of microfinance--our current challenge is to find efficient and reliable ways of providing a richer menu of microfinance products.
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By Microfinance Gateway
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