CARE BLOG

A Voice from Nairobi

7/1/10

Posted by: Staci Dixon at 9:55AM EST on April
9, 2010

In
2002, I attended my first MicroCredit Summit in Cote d”Ivoire.
It consisted of a few hundred Westerners discussing how microfinance can
help
alleviate poverty in Africa. Fast
forward to the
2010 MicroCredit Summit being held this week in Nairobi, Kenya.
Not only are there closer to 1500 participants, but the vast majority of
attendees are Africans from African organizations and institutions. I am
struck
by the fact that this is no longer an external process but an African
movement that
is rising from within, but also taking hold internationally. This is
what
progress looks like.

Contrary to other issues like hunger, HIV/AIDS,
illiteracy,
etc., microfinance is a sustainable solution that recognizes the dignity
of
African people and respects the resources they can contribute. In Niger,
the
world”s poorest country, nearly 200,000 women have collectively amassed
$14
million in savings. Moreover, 60 percent of the money these groups save
is
loaned out to members. The rest is redistributed to the savers with
interest.

The African excitement around microfinance is
palatable. Kenyan President Mwai Kibaki
opened the Summit and proceeded to spend
the
morning discussing its importance to Africa
with none other than Muhammed Yunus, the president of Grameen Bank and
father
of microfinance. It seems fitting that the Nobel Laureate who invented
microfinance in Bangladesh
in the 1970s is here in Nairobi
leading the conversation about how to bring economic empowerment to
scale.

What also excites me is that the savings-led
approach CARE
pioneered 20 years ago (which brings women together to teach them to
save, pool
their funds and provide loans to each other) is quickly gaining
momentum. Perfect
for rural areas, requiring no infrastructure and suitable for illiterate
members, savings-led microfinance is reaching the bottom rung of
Africa”s
economic ladder and being increasingly recognized for the suitability to
Africa”s unique circumstances.

Africans, who are growing increasingly tired of
being given
hand-outs, are excited to have a solution that puts their incredible
resiliency
and self reliance to work. Africans embody the Kiswahili word ’˜Harambee” meaning ’˜all pull together.” Harambee
is what has been happening
since that MicroCredit Summit in Cote d”Ivoire just eight
years ago.
It is dizzying to think of what can be achieved in the next eight.

Lauren Hendricks
Executive Director, Access Africa
(learn more)

CARE, the leading
humanitarian organization, brings financial services to more people in
Africa
than any other international NGO reaching 1.6 million Africans in 21
countries.

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