Can_Commercial_Banks_Do_Microfinance - published in Small...

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published in Small Enterprise Development Journal (SED), vol.13(4), December 2002 Can commercial banks do microfinance? Lessons from the Commercial Bank of Zimbabwe and the Co-operative Bank of Kenya ROBIN BELL, ANNIE HARPER and DYSON MANDIVENGA During the last five years, two commercial banks in Zimbabwe and Kenya have made the decision to start microfinance operations, motivated in part by the increase in competition in the financial sector, which has encouraged them to seek new markets. This article outlines the institutional form their ‘downscaling’ has taken, the new loan and saving products they have introduced and their progress so far. In these cases, donor-funded technical assistance has been crucial in helping overcome considerable obstacles, including resistance to the new microfinance culture from the mainstream bank staff. Introduction. It is desirable and indeed essential that commercial banks should be involved in microfinance. If they are not, any impact that microfinance can have on global poverty will be negligible, for it is the privately owned commercial banks which dominate the financial markets in most countries. Currently, microfinance is being commercialised, but this still mostly involves MFIs becoming commercial banks – such as K-REP (Kenya) and BancoSol (Bolivia), or the setting up of commercial banks doing only microfinance, such as Centenary Rural Development Bank (Uganda). Most of the commercial banks that have moved into microfinance are state banks – for example Bank Rakyat Indonesia (BRI), National Microfinance Bank (Tanzania), and Banco Nacional de Costa Rica. Cases of pre-existing, privately owned commercial banks ‘downscaling’ and starting microfinance operations are still relatively few and far between. Although there are success stories - examples include Hatton National Commercial Bank in Sri Lanka, and a number of private banks in India through a programme started by the National Bank of Agriculture and Rural Development (NABARD) 1 - many of the commercial banks that have tried to downscale have faced considerable problems, and have not achieved impressive levels of outreach (Valenzuela 2001). If microfinance is truly to ‘take off’ globally, such that it is no longer dependent on donors, and no longer equated with ‘development interventions’, then this situation must change. There are many reasons why privately owned commercial banks are put off entering the microfinance market, despite its apparent potential profitability, and why those banks that have ‘taken the plunge’ have in many cases faced problems. Commercial banks are answerable to their shareholders, who live and die by the bottom line and demand maximum returns. Most do not feel that microfinance will guarantee them this. Standards and regulatory requirements with which commercial banks have to comply, particularly regarding unsecured lending, and interest rates, are inappropriate for microfinance operations.
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This note was uploaded on 03/08/2012 for the course ENGINEERIN F04 taught by Professor Irfan during the Fall '08 term at COMSATS Institute Of Information Technology.

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Can_Commercial_Banks_Do_Microfinance - published in Small...

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