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IFC, ACCION INTERNATIONAL LAUNCH NEW MICROFINANCE PARTNERSHIP


Patty Lee          
ACCION, Communications        
Phone: (617) 492-4930 x 1255

Fax: (617) 876-9509                

E-mail:
plee@accion.org        

L. Joseph

IFC Corporate Relations

Phone: (202) 473-7700

Fax: (202) 974-4384

E-mail:
ljoseph@ifc.org

Rob Wright

IFC SME Department

Phone: (202) 473-7997

Fax: (202) 522 3742

E-mail:
rwright@ifc.org


WASHINGTON, D.C., February 1, 2001 — In a new poverty-fighting initiative, the International Finance Corporation today announced a US$400,000 program to fund ACCION International’s technical assistance that will benefit four microfinance institutions (MFIs) in Africa and Latin America.

The funding is seen as the first step in an emerging long-term partnership between IFC and ACCION, a microfinance pioneer with 27 years of experience of helping low-income entrepreneurs gain the financing they need to generate new income and improve their living standards.  The funding from IFC’s Small and Medium Enterprises (SME) Capacity Building Facility will support the professional services needed to expand existing MFIs in Mozambique, Brazil, and Guatemala and to create a new one in South Africa.


Until now ACCION has worked exclusively in the Western Hemisphere.  IFC’s support provides the funding to help ACCION to transfer its successful models to Africa for the first time.  The goal is to satisfy the credit needs of small entrepreneurs who start their own businesses but lack access to loans required for expansion.  The technical assistance initiative comes just as IFC has also approved its first direct investment in an ACCION affiliate, a $1.9 million financing of Financiera Compartamos in Mexico.


IFC executive vice president Peter Woicke said the partnership with ACCION will help IFC support microlending as a sustainable approach to fighting poverty.  IFC’s long-term objective is to help microlending institutions such as ACCION affiliates become commercially viable in order to attract the private capital they need to grow and operate as permanent financiers of the poor, he added.


María Otero, president and CEO of ACCION International, said that IFC’s participation will help ACCION leverage its capacity to reach more microentrepreneurs around the world, leading to better lives for thousands of low-income borrowers and their families.


In each case, technical assistance funding is drawn from the SME Capacity Building Facility, a $7.1 million initiative to support innovative efforts in the field of micro enterprises and SMEs that IFC launched last year.  The Facility supports up to 40 percent of the costs of pilot projects that are unique and replicable and involve close partnership with outside institutions.


In Mozambique, where only 5 percent of the country’s estimated 100,000 microentrepreneurs have access to business credit, the funding will help non-profit microlender Tchuma expand to serve all of Maputo Province. Its goal is to double its number of clients and establish a savings program.


In response to the lack of formal microlending activity in South Africa’s Northwest Province, IFC funds will help ACCION and local partner Vulindlela, a South African development consulting firm, create an entirely new MFI.


In Brazil, IFC’s support will help transform ACCION’s group of affiliates—the CEAPE Network—into one larger, regulated financial institution that is expected to cover its operating costs and become profitable within three years.


In Guatemala, IFC efforts will help ACCION’s affiliate, Génesis, transform from a non-profit organization to a regulated microbank, thus creating the country’s largest private regulated MFI.


In a parallel initiative, IFC is also strengthening microfinance in Mexico by investing in ACCION affiliate Compartamos with a 10 to 15 percent equity investment and a five-year $1 million loan.  A microlender that has recently gone from non-profit to for-profit status, Compartamos currently lends to 60,000 borrowers in rural and urban Mexico, many in the less developed states of Oaxaca and Chiapas.  In the next five years, the organization expects to triple the number of borrowers it serves.


ACCION International, a private non-profit organization working in Latin America and the Caribbean, Africa, and the United States, serves low-income people, such as street vendors, carpenters, and seamstresses—who start their own small businesses to survive.  Since 1992, the ACCION Network has disbursed over $3 billion in loans averaging $600 to more than 2 million microentrepreneurs.  Ninety-eight percent of the loans have been paid back.


The mission of the IFC, part of the World Bank Group, is to promote private sector investment in developing countries, which will reduce poverty and improve people’s lives.  IFC finances private sector investments in the developing world, mobilizes capital in the international financial markets and provides technical and capacity building assistance and advice to governments and businesses.