The Microfinance Catalyst

When both governments and markets fail, impact investors can stimulate change. Microfinance – its advent, rise, and recent crises – shows how.

CAMBRIDGE – So-called “impact investors” – providers of capital to businesses that solve social challenges while generating a profit – are the current rage in economic development. US President Barack Obama’s Office for Social Innovation and Civic Participation recently convened more than 100 practitioners to discuss how impact investing could be unleashed in the United States and the developing world. The United Nations Foundation and the US State Department have launched a $50 million public-private partnership to promote clean cooking stoves in poor countries. In the United Kingdom, the Netherlands, and France, development agencies are looking to reposition some of their funding to businesses serving the poor.

According to the World Bank, roughly 1.4 billion people live in extreme poverty (earning less than $1.25/day), and 2.6 billion in moderate poverty (less than $2/day). More than a billion of the moderately poor – a number that exceeds Africa’s total population – live in South Asia. Can impact investing do more to reduce global poverty than so many previous efforts, all of which have struggled to have any impact at all?

Impoverished populations desperately require lighting, fuel for cooking, affordable and accessible health care, clean water, elementary education, and financial services. Government programs to supply these needs are plagued with corruption (by some estimates 50-70% of all welfare spending in India is stolen) and unable to provide quality services. Moreover, large companies have been unable to serve these populations’ needs, because to do so would require them to reinvent their existing business models around new product, distribution, and pricing paradigms.

To continue reading, please log in or enter your email address.

To access our archive, please log in or register now and read two articles from our archive every month for free. For unlimited access to our archive, as well as to the unrivaled analysis of PS On Point, subscribe now.

required

By proceeding, you agree to our Terms of Service and Privacy Policy, which describes the personal data we collect and how we use it.

Log in

http://prosyn.org/dc2hzC8;

Cookies and Privacy

We use cookies to improve your experience on our website. To find out more, read our updated cookie policy and privacy policy.