Dubbed the Citi Network Strengthening Programme, the idea is to increase the ability of 12 major microfinance networks and their members to develop products and services that meet the needs of their clients. In addition, the programme aims to enhance the industryÆs infrastructure, introduce higher standards of management and governance, and promote the role of microfinance in providing the poor with access to financial services.
In Asia-Pacific, the programme will be run in partnership with the Banking With The Poor Network (BWTP), the Foundation for Development Cooperation (FDC), and the programmeÆs global partner, the SEEP Network. (SEEP stands for small enterprise education and promotion). It will expand the Citi FoundationÆs support of the microfinance industry in the region through grants for capital, training and technical assistance. (Over the past 10 years, the Citi Foundation has committed more than $17 million in funding for microfinance-related programmes in Asia.)
ôWe are pleased to expand our partnership with these very important microfinance organisations at what we believe is a critical juncture for the industry," says Robert Morse, CEO of Citi's regional markets and banking division. "Microfinance has won tremendous acclaim as a tool for poverty alleviation in recent years, but still faces numerous challenges. This initiative will help the industry to achieve the strength and scale required to substantially expand the reach of microfinance to the poor."
The regions and countries participating in the Citi Network Strengthening Programme are: China, India, Philippines, Central America, Ecuador, Mexico, Central and Eastern Europe, Russia, Pakistan, and the Middle East.
To date, the Citi Foundation has contributed nearly $60 million in funding to support 250 microfinance institutions, microfinance networks and micro-enterprise programmes in 55 countries.
In Asia, CitiÆs support for the microfinance sector started during the Asian financial crisis in the late 1990s. During this time, Citi gave over $4 million to grants to various microfinance organisations including Grameen Foundation USA and Grameen Trust. These grants provided seed funding to help new microfinance organisations establish themselves, as well as scale-up funding for existing organisations. This increased the capacity of 16 micro-finance institutions to serve millions of poor people in Bangladesh, China, India, Indonesia, Malaysia, the Philippines, South Korea, Sri Lanka, Thailand, and Vietnam.