For two days, 500 delegates from 36 countries attended the 2014 Asia Microfinance Forum in Shanghai to discuss financial inclusiveness and the future of microfinance in Asia. Themed “Financial inclusion in Asia: Creating dynamic financial ecosystems for the poor,” the event showcased speakers from national organizations, non-profits, governments and individual innovators to speak on the role of microfinance in helping the poor.
The event began on August 5 when Chairman of the Banking with the Poor Network, Chandula Abeywickrema, began the event with his remarks at the opening session. Then, Duan Yingbi, President of the China Foundation for Poverty Alleviation, spoke on the status of microfinance institutions in China.
Yingbi noted there are over 300 MFIs in China, most of which started seeing significant growth after 2005. Currently, Yingbi says, commercial banks are very active in China, but the MFI industry is not well defined (thus the impetus for inviting professionals to help define the future of MFIs in China and Asia).
Additional speakers went on to talk about the role of microfinance in China and elsewhere in the continent, and emphasized serving the poor and innovating as two clear goals.
On the last day of the forum, Eric Duflos, Regional Representative for East Asia and the Pacific at the Consultative Group to Assist the Poor; Vijayalakshmi Das, CEO of Ananya Finance for Inclusive Growth & Friends of Women’s World Banking, India; Arjuna Costa, Investment Partner at the Omidyar Network; Dennis White, President at the MetLife Foundation; Chuchi G. Fonacier, Managing Director of Bangko Sentral ng Pilipinas and Mr. Bai Chengyu, Secretary General of the China Association of Microfinance, all spoke on the unique position of microfinance institutions in Asia.
Speakers commented on the importance of inclusion amongst MFIs, digital finance and risk-management. “I am sure if we have a partnership between all the stakeholders, we will be able to achieve all we wish to achieve,” Das said.
All in all, the event sponsored speakers who offered insights into the role of MFIs in countries like India, China, Indonesia and Bangladesh. It was an important stepping-stone for many MFIs, as China expressed interest in creating a national framework for MFI activity.
Increasing microfinance options for the poor, particularly those in rural communities, can help increase opportunities for social mobility and poverty reduction. Asia has a large share of the world’s rural poor, so increasing the quality and quantity of MFI services will undoubtedly help the poor connect with the financial resources they need to advance their human development.
– Joseph McAdams