IE Focus | By Maria Luque, Professor at IE Business School
Microfinance has proved to be a prime tool in the fight against poverty, but it is not enough to eradicate it once and for all.
Microfinance, namely the provision of financial services for people on low incomes, has taken giant strides since the 1970s. It provided financial services for some 200 million people in 2011 according to the Microcredit Summit Campaign, and now impacts the lives of around 1 billion.
Microfinance institutions face big challenges. One such challenge is the impact of the world economic crisis which began to show in 2008, and which, according to Deutsche Bank Research, has caused a deceleration in the growth of assets, a drop in profitability, and a greater risk for portfolios. Another is the excessive focus on profit and the accelerated growth of some institutions, without the necessary institutional capacities or control. Even so, the microfinance industry continues to grow steadily and has demonstrated that in the right conditions it is a key tool in achieving the Millennium Development Goals (MDGs).
Until recently we focused on talking about microfinance as a tool that could lift people out of extreme poverty, promote production, and empower women, all of which are development Millennium Development Goals and indispensable factors to strengthen economic and social growth in developing countries. But growth and investment in assets are not the only things that access to financial services brings.