Four hundred microfinance institutions now exist to provide soft loans to the disadvantaged in Latin America and the Caribbean, the regional microcredit summit heard. According to the main report presented at the summit, held in Santiago, Chile, in April, of the 54.8 million poor clients reached by the microcredit system worldwide in 2003, 82.5 per cent were women. The number of poor women who have benefited from microloans rose from 10.3 million in 1999 to 45.2 million in 2003.
Of those, 719,000 were in Latin America and the Caribbean. More and more traditional banks in the region provide microloans and there are an increasing number of well-regulated microfinance institutions. But, said summit director Sam Daley-Harris, while strides have been made in the region, a more comprehensive effort must be made, especially in rural areas, to expand access to microcredit among the poor. The 1,200 delegates from around the world included Muhammad Yunus, founder of the Grameen Bank in Bangladesh, who set a target, taken up by the meeting at large, of increasing the number of families with access to microcredit from 100 to 175 million by 2015.
Source World Bank Press Review, 27 April 2005