Lahore: Seasoned speakers and practitioners in the social development sphere have urged the microfinance sector to generate fresh opportunities and lead the growth for micro enterprises. Delivering their views at the 9th Pakistan Microfinance Forum 2015 organized by SHAMROCK Conferences at the Ramada Islamabad, they dilated on the need for a cohesive effort to move from regulations to actions.
The annual assembly of the microfinance sector attracted a large number of microfinance experts, social entrepreneurs, regulatory institutions, valuable contributors, banking professionals, stakeholders and other prominent personalities in the social developmental sector.
Mr. Nadeem Hussain, Chairman, Pakistan Microfinance Network (PMN) the apex body of microfinance institutions in the country in his keynote address, emphasized the need to change and to be prepared for growth. He said, “The Microfinance industry is poised for growth. Our ambition is ten million customers by 2020. PMN has created the building blocks in collaboration with the industry. We are now in the execution phase.”
In his opening remarks, Mr. Menin Rodrigues, Chairman and Convener of the MF Forum 2015, said, “Microfinance offers a long-term solution to meet national crises, besides alleviating poverty among the large rural and poverty-stricken segments of our population, which have unfortunately remained ‘unbanked’ or financially underserved for many decades now, even in this modern day and age. Therefore I would like to impress upon the policy makers the urgent need for the uplift of the micro and small enterprises.”
Mr. Ghalib Nishtar, President & CEO, Khushhali Bank Limited highlighted that Pakistan’s policy and regulatory framework helped in the growth of the industry; he reiterated the need for focus on MSME as investors have come to support this segment, however the funding challenge continues to override the industry. He said, “Microfinance institutions should lead the growth into the unbanked and small business market segments giving an opportunity for setting up a national agenda for job creation.”
Mr. Yasir Ashfaq, Group Head Financial Services, Pakistan Poverty Alleviation Fund (PPAF) said, “Microfinance has a huge role in promoting financial inclusion in Pakistan which has been recognized in the National Financial Inclusion Strategy as well. Pakistan Poverty Alleviation Fund has been instrumental in nurturing the MF sector by providing wholesale funds as well as building financial infrastructure both at retail and the sector level. PPAF fully endorses the Microfinance Growth Strategy 2020 and believes all stakeholders of the sector will have to make concerted efforts to achieve the targets.
Availability of funds to fuel the growth remains a challenge and Pakistan Microfinance Investment Company being jointly established by PPAF, KfW and DFID will prove to be a major source of debt for the sector by crowding in and leveraging commercial sources of fund. There is a dire need for the players to develop innovative products to raise deposits and develop delivery mechanisms to reach out to un-served markets.
Mr. Ghazanfar Azzam, CEO, Waseela Bank Limited in his remarks in the session on Technology said that proliferation of technology in the microfinance industry will make the difference now in the future. A brisk spot-survey in the audience on the state of the microfinance industry by the organizers indicated that Pakistan is at the half-way mark of microfinance interventions.
Measuring the social impact of microfinance, a panel discussion chaired by the seasoned Mr. Saquib Mohyuddin, Chairman, Pakistan Enterprise Development Facility (PEDF), the general consensus of panelists was to address the critical issue of reaching out to the poorest of the poor, measuring social performance indicators and reducing poverty. The panelists included, Ms. Tabinda Jaffery, CEO, ASASAH, Syed Mujahid Hussain, CEO,, AAS Foundation, Dr. Rakhshinda Parveen, Co-Founder SACHET and Mr. Fazal-ur-Rehman.
The well-attended conference was sponsored by Khushhali Bank Limited, Waseela Bank Limited, Meezan Bank and Tameer Microfinance Bank, and supported by the Pakistan Microfinance Network, with Pakistan Observer as the Media Partner.