Tuesday, December 25, 2007

Modern microfinance

Dear Colleagues

I have been aware of microfinance since ... I really don't know when. Certainly it I was looking at various project level microfinance schemes in the 1980s, and I became aware of microfinance perhaps in the 1970s.

But the Yunus Grameen Bank version of microfinance that was launched in the late 1970s has given microcredit (or microfinance) a new look ... and a new organization ... and now in some 30 years later a whole family of related activities.

My interaction with microcredit, mainly in Africa, suggested that some form of micro financial services have been a part of traditional society for a very long time. It is well documented that the moneylender was a key part of economic society for almost as long as there has been a record of history ... and I would argue that micro-finance has been around just as long. In my own experience, little villages in West and East and Southern Africa all had ancient systems of self help, and systems of group credit and microcredit.

It did not surprise me that these old traditional systems existed ... and it disappointed me but did not surprise me that my professional colleagues in the global "north" did not recognise the importance of this in their project design.

The importance of microfinance as a key component of successful sustainable development cannot be over-emphasized ... but as I have said in other contexts, one intervention will never make for sustainable development success. Microcredit is a good component, and arguably a critical component for success.


Peter Burgess
The Tr-Ac-Net Organization