Entrepreneurs du Monde Promotes Responsible Finance in Burma
Introducing good practices in a country in transition
On 7 and 8 May 2014, the first conference entirely dedicated to Responsible Finance in Burma was held in Yangon. Organised by the French NGO Entrepreneurs du Monde with the support of LIFT*, this event’s main objective was to raise awareness and to promote the sharing of good practices in the financial sector, and particularly in microfinance, of this country which is undergoing a major period of political and economic transition.
This initiative is no mere coincidence: the recent opening-up of Burma has attracted microfinance institutions of all shapes and sizes. Given that less than 20%** of the population has access to financial services, the needs are enormous. However, despite government efforts to implement a regulatory framework for the sector, there is a high risk that regulatory control may be difficult to achieve, which would be detrimental to the poorer populations and to sustainable improvements in their living conditions.
Entrepreneurs du Monde, stakeholder and promoter of social microfinance, considers it a matter of urgency that local players actively engage with international standards and that sharing best practice is encouraged.
Fifteen speakers shared their expertise
The conference lectures were heard by some one-hundred participants: local microfinance organisations, regional finance professional networks and further afield, Burmese governmental representatives (Ministry of Finance and Revenues, Ministry of Cooperatives) and international representatives (French Development Agency, French Embassy in Burma, United Nations Development Programme, etc.), as well as several of Entrepreneurs du Monde’s partners on the Asian continent.
Through the different presentations, the participants were prompted to think about the risks and drifts of microfinance, in particular through the example of the Andhra Pradesh crisis in India during the summer of 2010, and to understand the meaning of responsible finance. They were also shown the main international initiatives in the sector in terms of social performance management and client protection. Putting risks and initiatives into the current circumstances of Burma enabled the participants then to see to what extent together these principles are practicable, in concrete terms and without delay.
To discuss these subjects, about fifteen speakers specialized in the sector were invited to share their experience and expertise. Among the organisations taking part are microfinance groups, backers, multilateral development groups, Responsible Finance promotional platforms and rating agencies. The presentations were interspersed with Q&A sessions with the participants.
Entrepreneurs du Monde in Burma
- Since 2007: support to the Total E&P Myanmar microfinance programme.
- Since 2011: establishment of So Oo Tehtwin, meaning ‘entrepreneur’ in Burmese, a microfinance institution offering financial services and high quality support to the poorest people in the Yangon area. A pilot project was launched at the start of 2014 after obtaining the registration as an international NGO by the government, and now in wait for the microfinance licence.
- Since 2013: support to community self-help groups in the suburbs of Yangon, for the implementation of saving and credit plans, managed by the communities themselves.
- Since 2013: support to local microfinance institutions, to improve their social performance management.
* Livelihood and Food Security Trust, LIFT, a consortium of sponsors, is one of the largest microfinance financiers in Burma.
** Source: Microfinance in Myanmar: Sector Assessment, 29 January 2013, IFC/GCAP.