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Jannette Esguerra
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LA PAZ, BOLIVIA, March 9, 1999 --- The International Finance Corporation today signed an agreement for its first direct loan to a microlending institution in South America. IFC will provide a $2 million credit line to Caja Los Andes S.A. for on-lending to microentrepreneurs throughout Bolivia.

Microentrepreneurial activities in Bolivia provide a crucial source of income and employment generation for much of the country's largely indigenous population, most of whom live at or below the poverty line, said Bernard Pasquier, Senior Manager of the Latin America and the Caribbean Department during the signing ceremony. The microenterprise sector benefits women in particular, who traditionally make up the majority of borrowers, and typically use the proceeds to provide for the health and nutrition needs of their families.

During the 1990s, microlending in Bolivia by both non-governmental organizations (NGOs) and commercial institutions has expanded rapidly.  IFC's investment will support the growth of Caja Los Andes, one of Bolivia's leading commercial microlending institutions, and help it to meet the rising credit demand in the sector. Caja Los Andes, which began operations in 1992 as Pro-Credito, an NGO, became a commercial institution regulated by the Bolivian Superintendency of Banking in 1995.

The project reflects the World Bank Group's support  for the Government of Bolivia's National Action Plan, developed in consultation with Bolivian society, to raise the living standards of the poor, strengthen institutions, and achieve sustainable private sector led growth.

IFC, part of the World Bank Group, fosters economic growth in the developing world by financing private sector investments, mobilizing capital in the international financial markets and providing technical assistance and advice to governments and businesses.