By Daily News Egypt
A new study from IFC, a member of the World Bank Group, has found that external risks, security concerns, and over-indebtedness are perceived as the most serious challenges facing the microfinance sector in the Arab World, according to a Wednesday statement.
The survey was conducted in conjunction with Sanabel, the Microfinance Network of Arab Countries.
The survey said that tackling those problems will be key to spurring the development of the industry. Microfinance, long considered an important tool in the fight against poverty, has grown at a much slower rate in MENA over the last six to seven years, than it has in other parts of the developing world.
“Microfinance can be powerful catalyst for boosting economic growth and improving the lives of people in developing countries,” Sanabel’s Executive Director Sahar Tieby said.
“This study documents the key risks facing the sector as perceived by stakeholders in the hopes that they can work together to address them,” she said.
The study, called“Voices: An assessment of the perceived risks facing the microfinance sector in the Arab World”, surveyed industry players, including financial service providers, donors, and regulators in ten Arab countries.
External risks, such as security challenges and macroeconomic downturns, were cited as the most serious issues facing the industry. There were also concerns about the over-indebtedness of borrowers, staffing, widespread competition, and political interference.
“By identifying and addressing the barriers to the growth of the microfinance sector, we can increase access to finance for micro-entrepreneurs and low income households across the region, enable them to increase incomes, build assets, and reduce their vulnerability to external shocks, helping to tackle poverty and boost shared prosperity,” IFC Senior Microfinance Operations Officer in MENA Mohammed Khaled said.
The report marks the first in a series of studies on the microfinance sector to be developed by IFC and Sanabel, according to the statement.
It further said that the initiative is part of IFC’s wider efforts in MENA to expand access to finance, support to micro, small, and medium enterprises, and create jobs.
Globally, IFC invested $987m in microfinance projects in fiscal year 2015 and launched 59 advisory projects with microfinance institutions.
IFC is the largest global development institution focused on the private sector in emerging markets, working with more than 2,000 businesses worldwide.