European Microfinance Award Selection Committee Picks Finalists

Published: Saturday, October 21st, 2017 by Niamh Watters

And Then There Were Three…

European Microfinance Award Selection Committee Picks Three Finalists To Progress To High Jury

2017 European Microfinance Award
Copyright Julius Mwelu/UN-Habitat

On 27th September, the Selection Committee for the European Microfinance Award 2017 on “Microfinance for Housing” chose the three finalists who will go on to compete for the €100,000 prize: The First MicroFinance Bank Afghanistan, Mibanco from Peru, and Cooperative Tosepantomin from Mexico.

These three amazing organisations have been selected over a multi-month evaluation process begun in April and which attracted 37 applications from 23 countries. Following rounds of evaluation by two committees, the original field was whittled down to ten semi-finalists, and then the three finalists which will go to a High Jury before the winner is announced on 30th November during European Microfinance Week.

What does microfinance have to do with housing? In various ways, MFIs can enable or support access to better quality residential housing for low income, vulnerable or otherwise financially excluded groups with no or limited access to housing finance in the mainstream sector. The problem of lack of access to quality, affordable housing is massive. While decent shelter is a basic human right and a key part of the UN Sustainable Development Goals, 1.6 billion of the world’s population lives without adequate shelter and one third still have no access to adequate sanitation.

But as an issue, housing is not a vertical ‘silo’; rather it is closely intertwined with – and often the cause of – a whole host of developmental problems. Exposure to the elements, poor ventilation, and insufficient arrangements for basic hygiene are major causes of poor health. Improper building structures undermine safety and vastly increase vulnerability to disaster. Lack of lighting and sufficient space limits children’s ability to study. Insufficient privacy and lack of toilet facilities contribute to sexual assault and constrain opportunities for women and girls. And lack of clear property rights are major contributors to crime and social injustice, while limiting families’ ability to invest in better housing.

The positive impact from better housing doesn’t end with families. A healthy, vibrant housing finance market can be a major economic engine, generating local employment and drawing mainly on local inputs. Meanwhile, communities enjoying secure property rights are also more likely to give rise to active citizens, less tolerant of corruption and more demanding of their political leaders.

With their relationships with poor and vulnerable segments, outreach into remote areas and expertise in providing unsecured loans to the poor, the microfinance sector can do a lot to address this need. In fact, as each previous edition of the European Microfinance Award has illustrated, MFIs have shown over and over that they can successfully adapt the traditional microfinance model to provide innovative financial and non-financial services. In the housing context, this can include improving housing conditions through home purchase or expansion of existing living space to meet the needs of growing families, providing access to clean water, sanitation, electricity, and other core housing needs, raising overall house quality by providing access to better quality materials and construction techniques, securing tenure and protection against eviction, and mitigating against natural disasters by using resilient construction design and materials and locating housing outside flood zones and other vulnerable sites.

The range of applications we received reflected the breadth of opportunities for the microfinance sector to help. Illustrating this, the three finalists have unique approaches (although with some common factors!) to this complex challenge.

The First MicroFinance Bank (FMFB) Afghanistan has responded to war, natural disasters and lack of verifiable title with a home improvement loan, provided with construction technical assistance offered through a network of partner experts. Targeting rural clients and focusing on facilitating incremental building and home improvement, FMFB Afghanistan was noted for its focus on providing expert technical support and the flexibility of its loan terms, as well as the particularly challenging context in which it operates.

Mibanco is a Peruvian Bank that responds to a national housing deficit, overcrowding and poor quality building by offering three housing products, including a long-term, collateralised mortgage, an incremental home improvement loan and a water and sanitation connection product – all bundled with credit life insurance. Targeting microentrepreneurs and low-income salaried workers, Mibanco is notable for its considerable client outreach, diversity of demand-driven products, and strong partnerships with homeowners associations and construction materials suppliers.

Cooperative Tosepantomin is a Mexican cooperative that offers housing savings and loans combined with technical assistance to rural clients living in marginalised areas. Notable for its holistic approach to technical support, involving architecture planning, budgetary support and ongoing oversight of building processes, Tosepantomin was also recognised for its outstanding promotion of environmental responsibility through eco-friendly building techniques, recycling, renewable energy and energy efficiency.

The Other 2017 EMA Semi-finalists
Amret Cambodia
First Finance Cambodia
First Microfinance Bank Tajikistan Tajikistan
Fundecoca Costa Rica
Kenya Women Microfinance Bank Kenya
Micro Housing Finance Corporation Ltd India
Swarna Pragati India

e-MFP wishes to extend its hearty congratulations to these three organisations, as well as the semi-finalists, for their outstanding programs which seek to find new ways to increase access to quality housing, and we look forward very much to hearing more on 30th November at the Award ceremony about the finalists’ innovative work and seeing the short profile films of each organisation’s program before hearing the announcement of the winner.

We would also like to thank, on behalf of e-MFP, and the Luxembourg Ministry of Foreign and European Affairs, all the applicants for the relevant work they are doing to enable access to better quality residential housing for low-income groups as well as for their efforts in participating in the Award. Likewise, we’d like to thank the Pre-Selection and Selection Committees for their tireless and professional dedication to this selection task.

First appeared in the European Microfinance Platform Autumn Newsletter.