Micro Financial Institutions

Poverty is the main cause of concern in improving the economic status of developing countries. A microfinance institution is an organization that offers financial services to low income populations. Almost all give loans to their members, and many offer insurance, deposit and other services.

A great scale of organizations is regarded as microfinance institutes. They are those that offer credits and other financial services to the representatives of poor strata of population (except for extremely poor strata).

Microfinance is increasingly being considered as one of the most effective tools of reducing poverty. Microfinance has a significant role in bridging the gap between the formal financial institutions and the rural poor. The Micro Finance Institutions (MFIs) accesses financial resources from the Banks and other mainstream Financial Institutions and provide financial and support services to the poor.

MFIs are the pivotal overseas organizations in each country that make individual microcredit loans directly to villagers, microentrepreneurs, impoverished women and poor families. An overseas MFI is like a small bank with the same challenges and capital needs confronting any expanding small venture but with the added responsibility of serving economically-marginalized populations. Many MFIs are creditworthy and well-run with proven records of success, many are operationally self-sufficient.

Various types of institutions offer microfinance: credit unions, commercial banks, NGOs (Non-governmental Organizations), cooperatives, and sectors of government banks. The emergence of “for-profit” MFIs is growing. In India , these ‘for-profit’ MFIs are referred to as Non-Banking Financial Companies (NBFC). NGOs mainly work in remote rural areas thereby providing financial services to the persons with no access to banking services.

The term “transformation,” or commercialization, of a microfinance institution (MFI) refers to a change in legal status from an unregulated nonprofit or non-governmental organization (NGO) into a regulated, for-profit institution. Regulated, transformed organizations differ from nonprofits in that they are held to performance and capital adequacy standards and are supervised by a financial authority, typically the central bank of the country where they are registered. A transformed MFI also attracts equity investors. The equity investors want to ensure that the values of their investments are maintained or enhanced and elect Board members who share a common vision for the new for-profit institution. Among transformed MFIs, varying classifications of regulated institutions exist, the strictest being banks — rural banks and thrift banks — followed by non-bank financial institutions. Different countries have varied names for these regulated MFIs.

The microfinance sector consistently focuses on understanding the needs of the poor and on devising better ways of delivering services in line with their requirements, developing the most efficient and effective mechanisms to deliver finance to the poor. Continuous efforts towards automation of operations is steady improving in efficiency. The automated systems have also helped accelerate the growth rate of the microfinance sector.

The goal for MFIs should be:

• To improve the quality of life of the poor by providing access to financial and support services;

• To be a viable financial institution developing sustainable communities;

• To mobilize resources in order to provide financial and support services to the poor, particularly women, for viable productive income generation enterprises enabling them to reduce their poverty;

• Learn and evaluate what helps people to move out of poverty faster;

• To create opportunities for selfemployment for the underprivileged;

• To train rural poor in simple skills and enable them to utilize the available resources and contribute to employment and income generation in rural areas.

Many institutions practice microfinance, or raise funds for microfinance, including the following:

Accion International
Enterprise Development International
Five Talents International
Freedom from Hunger
Grameen Foundation
Microloan Foundation
Microcredit Summit Campaign
Microenterprise Access to Banking Services
Opportunity International Australia
World Council of Credit Unions

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