|Letter from the President
Working in the microfinance industry, I am constantly inspired. I am honored to work alongside people devoted not only to offering financial services to poor people, but to doing it better every day. The microfinance industry first made history by creating a global movement to meet the financial needs of poor people with innovative products and services.
We have now made history yet again.
Microfinance is the first industry of any kind in the world to practice global, voluntary disclosure of true pricing.
That is truly noteworthy. In some countries, governments have intervened to enforce truth-in-lending for a segment of the financial industry in their country, but broad-based, voluntary truth-in-lending has never before been done. The initiative that microfinance has shown toward this end helps distinguish it as an industry with a real commitment to responsible practice.
MFTransparency is facilitating this global practice, and the results of our past 12 months of work are quite impressive. We operate on a country-by-country basis, and so far are active in 16 countries with another 12 in the pipeline. Already, we have voluntary participation from 270 MFIs. We have transparent pricing on loans to over 30 million clients who have nearly $10 billion in outstanding loans. Twelve months ago there was no public listing of the prices of these products allowing for accurate comparison. How quickly we have changed that, with the MFTransparency website illustrating the pricing dynamics of microfinance markets across the world. This has happened because of the support and interest of thousands of you in the microfinance industry promoting and practicing transparent pricing.
How can you continue to support transparent pricing? Here are three ideas:
- Become an endorser. Nearly 600 individuals and organizations have signified their support in principle of MFTransparency’s mission by becoming an endorser. You can view the full list here. If your name isn’t yet on this list, we invite you to add it today by using this link: http://www.mftransparency.org/endorsements/form/
- Educate about transparent pricing. MFTransparency develops and disseminates educational resources covering a range of topics related to transparent pricing. These materials are all available free of charge through the Resources Library on our website. Review the papers, tools and presentations published here to learn more, share them with others in the industry and then contribute to the growing dialogue on responsible pricing.
- Make a donation. In November 2009 MFTransparency launched true-cost microfinance pricing data, marking the first time this information has ever been publicly available. This industry milestone was supported by donations from a range of individuals and institutions, listed here. Our work still critically needs broad-based financial support. You’ll find a list of our major donors elsewhere in this newsletter, but the smaller donations are equally important for us to continue our work. Please consider giving a year-end donation that will demonstrate to the world that microfinance is a movement without parallel, a global industry committed to responsible practice and translating that commitment into action for the benefit of the industry as a whole. You can donate on-line by using this link: http://www.mftransparency.org/sponsor/donate/.
I’m confident that in another year we will have revolutionized the practice of pricing in microfinance, setting an example for the world to begin to imitate. In the words of Asad Mahmood, Director of the Community Development Group at Deutsche Bank,
“Transparency is the root of every healthy industry. It is fundamental to good business practices.”
Thank you for your support in working toward our shared vision of a transparent microfinance industry.
CEO & President
MFTransparency was launched at the Microcredit Summit in Bali on July 28, 2008 with the mission of promoting transparent pricing in the microfinance industry. MFTransparency seeks to serve this need by collecting product prices on all micro-loan products around the world and reporting them through a common, objective measurement system, thereby allowing all microfinance stakeholders to work with a full understanding of the costs paid by clients. We have also undertaken the equally important role of developing and disseminating straightforward educational materials to enable all microfinance stakeholders to better understand the concept and function of interest rates and product pricing, to implement this newly available information for the betterment of the industry as a whole.
By providing a valuable component necessary to free markets and currently virtually absent in microfinance – transparent, open communication about the true cost of the product – MFTransparency is the venue for the microfinance industry to publicly demonstrate its commitment to transparency, integrity and poverty alleviation. We believe that transparency is the right of all stakeholders, and seek to engage a range of industry actors in building an effective, sustainable microfinance market on the foundation of transparency.
Since its inception, MFTransparency has been a featured speaker at numerous microfinance industry events throughout the world. Among these are the Social Performance Task Force Annual Meetings, IADB Foromic, AFMIN Annual Conference, SEEP Annual Conference, Microfinance India Summit, European Microfinance Week and the Global Microcredit Summit. Representatives of MFTransparency are repeatedly invited to these annual events, in addition to many others, and frequently recognized for the quality of our presentations. Please visit our Events Calendar to see what events we will be hosting and attending in the coming weeks.
In addition to data collection, two of the major components of MFTransparency’s work around the world are education and training. At workshops, meetings and conferences, we are constantly offering the various stakeholder groups we work with materials that they can use to understand and implement transparent pricing. It is just as important to us to make pricing data available as it is to provide the information and skills that industry stakeholders need to properly understand and apply it. Although sooner or later we hope to visit every country with a microfinance market, for the meantime we have been working to get these materials on the website so that they are accessible to everyone.
The new Resources library organizes our many materials by topic, to make it easier for you to find what you’re looking for and also to help related resources reinforce each other. For example, if you’re checking out our Calculating Transparent Prices Tool, you may find the paper The Challenge of Understanding Pricing of Microloans to be a useful explanation of some of the concepts that you’re noticing. So far our resources are organized into the following categories: Understanding Interest Rates, Need for Transparency, Independent Study Course and The MFT Approach. We will be adding new sections in the coming weeks on topics such as responsible finance, policy for transparency, the price curve, the cost curve and financial literacy.Please continue to check back as we add new sections and new resources.
MFTransparency would like to thank the sponsors and partners who have supported our efforts to promote transparent pricing in microfinance markets around the world. For more information, please visit our sponsors page.
Michael & Susan Dell Foundation
Microfinance Institutions Network (MFIN)
Standard Chartered Bank
In the two years since our launch, MFTransparency has published transparent pricing data for the microfinance markets in Azerbaijan, Bosnia and Herzegovina, Cambodia , Kenya, Bolivia and Ecuador, representing 107 institutions and 534 loan products sold to more than 4 million clients. Data for India, Malawi, Burkina Faso and Senegal is forthcoming and projects are underway in 15 additional countries. In each of these countries we have provided local industry stakeholders, including MFIs, funders and regulators, with training on how to calculate interest rates and how to implement transparent pricing practices. We have also developed a wide range of educational materials, tailored to the needs of different stakeholder groups in the context of their local markets. To support this work we also advocate the importance of transparent pricing and encourage discussion on this topic as speakers at industry events around the world.
enablingAPR & EIR Program: This project, funded by the MasterCard Foundation, will bring the Transparent Pricing Initiative to eight countries in Sub Saharan Africa. MFTransparency Vice President Alexandra Fiorillo led the launch of the project in Uganda and Rwanda this month, with workshops in Kampala and Kigali. MFTransparency is preparing to publish transparent product pricing data for Malawi, the first country in the project, in the coming weeks. Upcoming launches include Ghana and South Africa.
Transparent Pricing Initiative in Latin America: Funded by the Ford Foundation, this project includes Argentina, Bolivia, Colombia and Ecuador. Earlier this month MFTransparency CEO & President Chuck Waterfield headed two conferences to launch transparent product pricing data for Bolivia and Ecuador, the first-ever events of their kind. The Transparent Pricing Initiatives in Argentina and Colombia, launched this fall, are progressing well into the data collection phase.
Transparent Pricing Initiative in India: Launched in April with a series of five workshops throughout the country, the Transparent Pricing Initiative in India has had strong support from within the Indian microfinance industry from the beginning. To date, 80 institutions have submitted product pricing data, and final preparations are being made for a January data launch event. MFTransparency, the sponsors of the Transparent Pricing Initiative in India (Citi Foundation, the Michael & Susan Dell Foundation, MFIN and Standard Chartered Bank) and ACCESS Assist (MFTransparency’s implementing partner in India) have worked hard to ensure that this Initiative plays a constructive role in this important time for the Indian microfinance industry. Updates will be available in the coming days.
Transparent Pricing Initiative in West Africa: This project spans eight Francophone African countries, unified under the supervision of the BCEAO. Data for Burkina Faso and Senegal will be published in early 2011, closely following the launch of the Transparent Pricing Initiative in three additional countries: Benin, Togo and Ivory Coast.
We are proud to announce that MFTransparency is the recipient of the MicroFinancial Services Microfinance Innovation Award for Commitment to Social Performance and Transparency. We are honored to have been selected for this recognition from among such an esteemed group of nominees.
The MFTransparency Endorser List includes nearly 600 individuals and organizations who have indicated their support in principle to MFTransparency’s mission of facilitating transparent practices in microfinance markets internationally. The following graphic summarizes the full endorser list by the type of institution they represent: