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Visa, USAID and FINCA form microfinance partnership

27 January 2004  |  657 views  |  0

The US Agency for International Development (USAID), FINCA International(Foundation for International Community Assistance) and Visa International today announced a major public-private partnership that aims to bring new efficiency and security to microfinance clients in the developing world utilising electronic payment products.

The initiative builds upon a two-year partnership between FINCA and Visa to improve the delivery of financial services to entrepreneurial women in developing countries.

The partnership includes significant resources from all parties, including a newly-awarded US$610,000 grant to FINCA from USAID's Global Development Alliance Program (GDA), along with local staff resources and expertise from FINCA, and major technical assistance and brand strength from Visa in the areas of bank partnerships, payment technology and product development.

The partnership plans to pilot how Visa solutions will provide FINCA and its clients both cost- and time-saving processes, allowing FINCA to expand its outreach to more of the world's poor. Specifically, Visa's electronic payment solutions will help:

- Minimise loan transaction times for both clients and microfinance providers
- Lower transaction costs for processing loans
- Provide microfinance clients more secure access to their loan capital
- Reduce the possibility of cash theft
- Expand the variety of financial service products available to FINCA's clients
- Introduce a new market segment to participating commercial banks

USAID administrator Andrew Natsios, Visa International president and CEO Malcolm Williamson, and FINCA executive director Rupert Scofield made the announcement at a press conference during the Annual Meeting of the World Economic Forum in Davos Switzerland. The announcement provided a concrete example of one of the meeting's core themes: how partnerships between governments, businesses and social entrepreneurs and other non-governmental organisations can drive economic opportunity for a greater portion of the world's population.

Malcolm Williamson, President and CEO of Visa International said, "At Visa, we believe that we have only begun to harness the extraordinary value of payment technology to foster growth, innovation and opportunity - and that building upon our core strengths is one of the best ways we can contribute to a more prosperous and secure society. We are delighted to launch this new stage of our partnership with FINCA in cooperation with USAID."

According to Scofield, the partnership will help FINCA streamline its operations and provide value-added services to clients. "The biggest challenges our programs face are the high transaction costs to process loans and capture data, and safety issues for our clients and staff as they carry cash," said Scofield. "Visa's electronic payment technology will help lower transaction costs, increase our efficiency, and decrease the risk of carrying cash for our clients and staff."

Scofield added that the pilot program with Visa will provide FINCA's network of Village Banking programs with an easily replicable model based on the use of pre-paid cards and other forms of technology.

Andrew Natsios highlighted USAID's ongoing interest in supporting microfinance initiatives and the impact that microfinance can have on the world's poor. "Microfinance innovations can contribute significantly to poverty reduction by providing small loans to individuals at the local level, which can add up to big changes, globally, for billions of people. This is one of several microfinance projects supported by USAID in recent years and we look forward to seeing how Visa's technical expertise and partnerships can enhance and expand FINCA's ability provide opportunity to the world's poorest and deliver new solutions for microfinance institutions worldwide."

USAID's GDA program mobilises the ideas, efforts and resources of governments, businesses, and civil society by forging public-private alliances to stimulate economic growth, develop businesses and workforces, address health and environmental issues, and expand access to education and technology. Organisations awarded GDA grants share resources, risks and rewards in pursuit of a development objective that is not likely to be achieved without the alliance.

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