The FAQ page is important to visitors who come to the website with questions. They do not have the time to read through endless amounts of conten.t They want a page with ready-made questions and answers. This is where an FAQ page comes in handy.
Sanabel is the leading microfinance network in the Arab region. Our goal is to promote financial inclusion in the region, building the capacity of the microfinance sector in Arab countries to ensure that it reaches the highest levels of operation, set standards for transparency and client protection and finally to encourage other national networks establishment and growth within the Arab region. As of 2014, Sanabel has accumulated the support of 90 members within its network spanning 12 countries. Its membership base is incredibly diverse containing members from various countries in the Arab region.
They promote the advancement of micro-institutions on a global scale, their focus is on developing large international microfinance institutions and other smaller Microfinance Networks such as regional and national Networks ensuring the global Microfinance agenda is being met.
Their targets are Microfinance organisations in the region and other national networks within the region. They aim to support microfinance institutions within their respective regions.
Similar to regional networks but with a more specific role, they promote Microfinance institutions locally. The only target Microfinance institutions that operate within their borders.
While the types of networks can vary the underlying role remains the same, the advancement of microfinance as a concept while creating a favourable environment for its members through advocacy. Promoting financial inclusion and ensuring the access of basic financial services to everyone. They also provide valuable knowledge to Microfinance institutions and general governing of their members, through the promotion of certain standards and financial transparency.
- The first is to ensure that everyone has access to financial services. It is a pressing concern given that within the Middle East and North Africa region; only 18% of the population have an account. It is an issue of accessibility, awareness and cost, but it is up to Microfinance institutions to come up with innovative way to reach these people who are excluded, inform them of the availability of the service and still manage to do it in a manner that is not too expensive for them. Furthermore financial inclusion means providing financial services to all segments of the populations especially those who might be discriminated against such as youth, women and those who are caught in the middle of conflict zones
- The second part is to provide them with various financial products that they require and not just credit. Such Instruments may include; insurance, deposits and transfers which are just as important to clients as loans or credit services. The issue may be that in some countries Microfinance regulations differ and in the Arab region especially, most countries don’t legally allowed microfinance institutions to take savings in the form of deposits (Yemen and Syria are the exception). We can draw from this that even if some microfinance institutions were capable of pursuing the goal of financial inclusion, they may not be able to. It is Sanibel’s opinion that Microfinance Networks must then play their role and push for advocacy, negotiating and creating meetings with the decision makers and policy influencers to try to create a more encouraging environment
Policy advocacy is important as it is tied with the ability of microfinance institutions to achieve their goals, such as the goal of financial inclusion. This task falls to Microfinance Networks as they are the best suited for the job given their collective knowledge gained from their various views of each of their Microfinance members and the fact that they are an association consisting of several members with coinciding goals gives them strong negotiating power.
Through advocacy, policy can be changed to better suit microfinance institutions depending on their end goals.
There are several methods available for Networks to effect policy; either directly or indirectly. These are:
Gradually engaging governments and the media to solidify their position as liaison between the government and MFI’s. Through press releases and maintaining an open channel between them and governments National Networks can ensure their awareness
Promoting contact and facilitating settings for discussion between members associations and the policy makers. To initiate and participate in all major discussions between MFI’s and the government to address important concerns
Through promotion of quality research National Networks can increase credibility and ensure that information would be disseminated in the right way. By publishing transparency reports of their members and the region on their website and in reports, National Networks can be in charge of how the data is displayed
. By doing so they foster trust with the government and its members proving they freely provide their own information.
Through meetings with members it is up to National Networks to come up with the most compendious understanding of the matter and delivery that understanding to the decision makers. From diligent meeting with its members National Networks get the best comprehensive view of any issues facing MFI’s as well as the best understanding on how to approach the government about such issues.
Through lobbying and promotion of certain law reforms National Networks can directly influence policy to achieve the most reasonable benefit to MFIs. By proactively meeting with decision makers National Networks collectively promote their members ideas to the right people. Not only that but National Networks should also work on increasing media attention to important pending laws, further increasing public pressure and reforms. This is especially true when laws directly influence the livelihood of MFI’s members.
- Defining and Monitoring Social Goals
- Ensuring Board management and employee commitment to Social Goals
- Treating Clients Responsibly
- Design Products, Services Delivery Models and Channels that meet client’s needs and Preferences
- Treat Employees Responsibly
- Balance Financial and Social Performance
It also can provide clear and actionable benchmarks to other organisations to try to better improve their performance. There is also another type of transparency, which is transparency in pricing. Transparency in pricing increases the confidence of clients toward their microfinance institution
Donors would also be more reluctant to sponsor certain events or workshops if they can’t clearly see the results being generated from their contribution. In general it is in Microfinance institutions best interest to be as transparent as possible to appeal to all their stakeholders
Thankfully there are standards which can be used to guide institutions on the right path. To ensure the transparency of financial indicators the report by The SEEP Network can be used as a good reference. It highlights rules for the reporting of important indicators such as; Profitability ratios, Capital adequacy and solvency ratios, Liquidity ratios, Asset quality ratios and Efficiency and productivity ratios
The guide allows for the standardization of accounting techniques inevitable improving transparency. It is also important to remember that social indicators play a big role for microfinance institutions and are of grave interest to their stakeholders. According to the ‘Universal Standards for Social Performance Management’ by The Social Performance Task Force, there are key steps to follow to achieve strong social performance management, these are
To conclude it is in Sanabel’s opinion that a MFI’s maintain the right balance between their financial goals and their social goals
Mobile banking is the strategy of delivering access of financial services through the use of mobile phones. The goal would be to increase the increase people’s access to financial services that may have been impossible to reach in a cost effective manner through other methods.
The benefits can include; convenience for customer, reduced costs and subsequently price of financial services and accessibility to rural areas that were previously inaccessible.
These goals coincide with those of Microfinance institutions in terms of financial inclusion, offering a new method to tackle the issue. It also addresses the main issue with MFI’s, which is the high cost of traditional brick and mortar branches, which are still a barrier to reaching financial inclusion
Mobile banking has in some cases worked well, such as the famous M-Pesa example in Kenya, where an astounding 70% of households in Kenya using this particular service.
However there are still some technical issues to solve, as well as certain regulations depending on the country, that prevent the ubiquitous implementation of mobile banking
It refers to the ability of a Microfinance institution to sustain themselves through their own operations and ensure their long term survivability.
The importance of being sustainable is the ability of microfinance organisations to depend on themselves and not outside donations.
This will create a strong financial market that microfinance can thrive in under its own efficiency and inevitably lead to a stronger microfinance environment. While some goals such as financial inclusion may seem difficult given the costs involved and some argue this concept requires donations to be put into effect in its entirety
However it is also argued that it up to microfinance institutions to rise to the change and come up with more innovative solutions while still remaining financially sustainable..
However it is in no way an impossible goal and is in fact very viable for MFi’s
Sanabel’s conclusion is that microfinance institutions sustainability is tied to the sustainability of their clients’ businesses and in a broader sense to other forms of sustainable development in the country. In a sense the success of the clients of a microfinance institution is tantamount to its own sustainability