Consumer Protection Conference in Mali
by Mélina Djre
During my stay in Mali, as part of the Transparent Pricing Initiative, I had the opportunity to participate to the National Workshop on Consumer Protection jointly organized by the Malian Microfinance Professional Association (APIM/Mali) and Terrafina Microfinance. The purpose of the workshop was to raise awareness of Smart Campaign Client Protection Principles. The workshop also aimed to encourage institutions’ commitment to integrating these principles into their core operations. In his opening address, Mr. Camara, the Executive Director of APIM/Mali, highlighted that so far, microfinance institutions (MFIs) in Mali have placed more importance on economic and financial performance than on social performance. As social performance measurement should be the distinguishing factor between MFIs and banks, this is an important issue to address. This situation, along with cases of MFI bankruptcy, has contributed to attracting recent bad press.
After the opening ceremony and an introduction on social performance and achievements in this field in Mali, the first session of the workshop was dedicated to the review of the Client Protection Principles. Recently updated, these are the principles in their current form:
- Appropriate product design and delivery
- Prevention of over-indebtedness
- Responsible Pricing
- Fair and respectful treatment of clients
- Privacy of client data
- Mechanisms for complaint resolution
Each principle was detailed by one of the participating organizations. In the second session of the workshop, the goal was to encourage institutions to commit to the principles of customer protection and to implement them. Lists identifying different actions for each of the seven principles were distributed. It was then up to each institution to determine which principles they wanted to commit to. For the principles “Transparency” and “Responsible Pricing”, the proposed action was to report prices to MFTransparency. In line with the ongoing of the Transparent Pricing Initiative, it was a great opportunity to encourage institutions to participate. Some Malian institutions already involved in the data submission process at that time were seen as pioneers.
MFIs frequently ask me what is the link between MFTransparency and Smart Campaign? The Smart Campaign is the global campaign that highlights and promotes the seven Client Protection Principles in microfinance. To help MFIs incorporate each principle, the Smart Campaign provides them with training, self assessment and technical tools (evaluation guide, toolbox, case studies, etc.) as well as the opportunity to share their experiences. The tools developed by MFTransparency (such as the data collection and Calculating Transparent Prices Tool) allow institutions to take the first steps toward compliance with the third principle. We work closely with the Smart Campaign, helping to translate principle 3 into action!
The attendance of institutions from all over the country at the workshop, as well as the workshop discussions, demonstrated the growing interest for the subject of client protection and the need to rethink the role of MFIs and customer focus in the Malian context. MFTransparency is proud to be a part of this movement in the Malian microfinance industry.