Africa: MFIs Face Collapse As Financial Crisis Bites
Nairobi, Kenya, June, 22 2009 -
Microfinance institutions in Africa have very little chance of surviving the current financial crisis as loan repayment default soars.
Most of their low-income debtors will be too busy concentrating on personal survival to think of repaying their loans.
This is despite a show of resilience by the global microfinance sector in a new survey conducted by CGAP, an independent policy and research centre dedicated to advancing financial access for the world's poor.
"There have been few failures among microfinance institutions since the onset of the current financial crisis. However, the more than 400 respondents to the March survey reported significantly tougher market conditions," reads the report, released recently.
In East Africa, microfinance institutions have been pivotal in spurring growth and development for the majority of rural dwellers.
They also support a thriving small and medium scale enterprise sector that today account for about 30 per cent of the gross domestic product of countries like Kenya.
However, the full impact of the financial crisis is likely to be felt in the second half of this year.
Accordingly, many MFIs are taking steps to cope, such as taking a more conservative lending approach and in some cases, even cutting staff.
It is this burden that local and regional microfinance institutions will have to deal with as the crisis finally takes its toll on Africa, coupled with other economic situations that may hamper their survival chances in the face of the crisis.
"On the client side, we foresee a further deterioration in food consumption and loan repayment in many markets resulting from sustained high food prices and a drop in incomes," says the survey.
While half of the MFIs participating in the survey expected loan delinquencies to improve over the next six months, this optimism was tempered by the finding that more than 60 per cent of MFIs expect to face liquidity pressures over the same period.
A majority of MFIs report that the liquidity drought is hurting, with smaller institutions suffering more acutely than their larger counterparts.
Sixty-five per cent of respondents to the CGAP survey reported declining -- or at best stable -- loan portfolios in the most recent six months, reflecting the impact of the credit crunch.
In addition, more than two-thirds of MFIs reported an increase in their portfolio-at-risk levels.
There are, however, strong regional differences, with MFIs in more integrated economies -- particularly Europe and Central Asia and Latin America -- reporting the largest impacts from the crisis.
It is expected that the same effects will befall those operating in the emerging economies like Africa in the second phase of the crisis.
The World Bank predicts that between 50 million and 90 million more people could be driven into poverty by the current global crisis.