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Financial Inclusion is one of the corner stones of economic development. Without access to finance for inputs and equipment (assets), small business often fall short of their growth potential, and create lesser jobs.
Ukraine, Moldova, and Georgia are part of the Eastern Neighbourhood Technical Assistance for Financial Inclusion (ENTAFI) program of the European Investment Bank (EIB).
In January 2019, AFC and its consortium partners won the technical assistance project (amounting to almost €2m) which provides capacity building to (micro) financial institutions (MFI) in Ukraine and Georgia. The project also partners with sector associations to provide rural micro- and small businesses with financial literacy and -management training.
In Ukraine, 3 banks and 3 other sector associations were highly interested to work with the program, both to strengthen, and to create in the first place, their (agricultural) microfinance operations and to build capacity of their (potential) customers. Ambitious work plans have created.
In Georgia, AFC works with a bank and a microfinance institution. One important work focus is the digitalization of the lending process, which aims to reduce cost of outreach and to reach a younger customer base. Moreover, these (M)FIs are on a rather steep growth trajectory which comes with operational risks. On one hand, larger operations require different management systems, particularly recruitment, induction, and development of the increasing number of staff. Furthermore, expanding operations sometimes shadow the presence and expansion of credit risk. AFC supports them to manage their risks well, succeed, and contribute to financial inclusion in Georgia.
MICROFINANCE GROWTH DEPENDS ON INNOVATION
Digitalization of processes, e.g. through providing mobile wallets to customers, is just one example.
Even more important will be creating new microfinance products that truly facilitate micro- and small businesses in the agricultural and other sectors.
This cannot be achieved without trust – the project emphasises responsible lending and consumer education and protection principles as it supports (M)FIs to create new products and reach new customer segments.
In the coming year, AFC will also work with customers of these (M)FIs as well as members of wine producers in Georgia and farmers associations, providing training in financial literacy and (financial) management.
In Moldova, the project looks also for synergies with the Fruit-Garden-of-Moldova project, which is managed by AFC and funded by EIB as well. While that project already works on bank linkage, ENTAFI’s potential role is to provide financial literacy and MSE management training to small-scale farmers and businesses that are not yet reached by the Fruit-Garden-project.