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Top Kenyan banker touts microfinance

NAIROBI, Kenya, Feb 15- Access to affordable micro finance is a key plank in the fight against poverty in Kenya, Equity Bank boss James Mwangi has said.

Speaking in Nairobi after giving Sh7. 5 million to support the Africa/ Middle East Regional Microcredit Summit to take place in Kenya, Mr Mwangi cautioned that unless the rural majority poor were facilitated to access affordable credit, the attainment of the Millennium Development Goals (MDGs) would remain a big challenge.

“Microfinance institutions should therefore focus on the ‘bottom of the pyramid’ the low income earners and micro and small enterprises to bring about social transformation and improve the standards of living of the poor,” he said while asking the Government to mainstream microfinance in the financial system to encourage a savings culture among the poor.

Equity, Mr Mwangi said, had invested heavily in micro credit after the realisation that there was a substantial and largely unmet demand for cheap credit, adding that the presence of Microfinance Institutions in the rural areas was viable due to low cost infrastructure.

“Equity bank will continue to focus on the bottom of the pyramid as there is still a large population of unbanked Kenyans who need access to easy and affordable credit facilities,” the Chief Executive Officer added.

The last five years have seen a massive transformation of the lives of the rural poor in the country through the provision of micro finance, with a thriving informal sector acting as the engine of economic growth.

At the same forum, chairperson of the Microfinance Institutions of Kenya (AMFI) Lydia Koros said Kenya would in April host a three- day international summit to discuss challenges facing micro credit institutions in Africa and the Middle East.

An estimated 2,000 delegates from 40 countries, among them Nobel Peace prize Laureate Muhammad Yunus of Bangladesh, credited with developing the microcredit concept are expected in the summit  in Nairobi between April 7-10  where participants will assess the progress toward the Microcredit Summits goals, address major challenges facing the sector; exchange best practices and suggest innovative solutions.

Mr Sam Daley Harris- the Director, Microcredit Summit Campaign coordinator said the conference would be the biggest one to be held in Africa, with delegates visiting microfinance institutions in the country to get first hand experience on how they are run.

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The Campaign’s goals for 2015 are reaching 175 million of the world’s poorest families with credit for self-employment and other financial and business services and ensuring that 100 million families rise above the one dollar a day threshold, both of which are designed to help meet the UN Millennium Development Goals.

The themes of the Nairobi summit would be reaching the poorest, reaching and empowering women, building financially self–sufficient institutions and ensuring a positive, measurable impact on the lives of clients and their families.

The Campaign brings together microcredit practitioners, advocates, educational institutions, donor agencies, international financial institutions, non–governmental organizations and others involved with microcredit to promote best practices in the field, to stimulate the interchanging of knowledge, and to work towards reaching the MDG goals.

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