One of the Day One sessions at the Global Philanthropy Forum was titled ‘Microfinance in Crisis?’ and featured David Roodman, Michael Schlein, President and CEO of ACCION International, Reeta Roy of the MasterCard Foundation and Keely Stevenson, CEO of Bamboo Finance USA. Immediately the panel all agreed that this was an important time for the microfinance industry and an opportunity to reflect. Unfortunately the course of the conversation hinted that many in the industry are only willing to reflect if they don’t have to do it too deeply.
Schlein, for instance, pointed out that while there is a lot of capital that has flowed to microfinance, almost all of it is focused on the top 100 institutions – and those institutions arguably have too much capital, or at least more than they can effectively use. On the other hand, the other roughly 9,900 microfinance institutions have very little if any access to capital from anything other than philanthropic grants. Of course, Schlein noted, every one of the now largely self-sufficient 100 large MFIs also started out dependent on philanthropic grants.