Interview with Naima Sahil, Director of the Mohammed VI Center for Solidarity Microfinance Support
Despite the blow taken in 2020, microfinance is regaining its rhythm. The positive momentum observed since the beginning of the year is instilling a bit of optimism in the sector. A key link in this ecosystem, the Mohammed VI Center for Solidarity Microfinance Support (CMS) is adapting its processes to provide tailored support to beneficiaries in this post-crisis context. In this sense, Naima Sahil, director of the CMS, delivers her reading of the situation and debates the orientations of the center in the medium term.
ALM: How do you read the current dynamics of microfinance in Morocco?
Naima Sahil: We can indeed speak of the dynamics of microfinance in Morocco, after a very difficult year 2020, marked by the genesis and development of the global coronavirus pandemic, in our country. Indeed, from the end of January to the end of July 2021, there is an upward trend both for the number of active customers (899,019: +2.9%) and for the outstanding amount of loans granted (8.075 billion DH, i.e. +4.12 %) and this trend will probably persist until the end of December 2021. At the end of September 2021, let’s say that Moroccan microfinance has emerged, to a certain extent, from the impasse in which it found itself in 2020, but anyway , we are convinced that, sooner or later, the parenthesis of the coronavirus will be closed with the tireless efforts and the renowned professionalism of the operators and the various stakeholders in microfinance in Morocco.
What place does solidarity microfinance occupy in this sphere?
In the current sphere of evolution of Moroccan microfinance in the context of Covid-19, we would like to recall that solidarity defines this sector and more, from the onset of this pandemic. Thus, the Moroccan Microcredit Associations (AMC) were called upon, in 2020, to distribute direct financial aid intended for poor households, served by the Special Fund for the Management of the Coronavirus Pandemic. They also postponed repayments of installments for customers who requested it. AMC field agents are, for their part, mobilized with customers to take stock of their situation and offer them the solutions best suited to their needs. Added to this is the establishment of a guarantee fund for the benefit of the AMCs to cover the levels of risk reached in their businesses. All these elements clearly attest to an exclusively solidarity-based microfinance.
What was the impact of the health crisis on the Centre’s actions and how did you adapt to this context?
The crisis has particularly changed our ways of carrying out the missions incumbent on us, namely the training of staff and beneficiaries of AMC products and services, the promotion of micro-enterprises and support for the marketing of their products and services, and the development of the National Observatory of Microfinance. Thus, at the start of the health crisis in our country, in 2020, we favored remote work, we readjusted our training and support plans to respond effectively to the needs expressed by both associations and their customers. We believe we have met this challenge. The proof: we exceeded our objectives in terms of training and advice.
What is your assessment of the Centre’s interventions for the year 2020, particularly in terms of support and assistance?
Due to the Covid-19 crisis, our interventions in 2020, in terms of support and accompaniment, show a positive balance. They could not concern, unfortunately, exhibition-sale spaces for the benefit of micro-entrepreneurs such as those planned for the Regional Meetings of the Micro-entrepreneur (RRME) of the CMS, the 36th edition of the Ramadan Trade Fair in Casablanca, the 9th edition of the National Exhibition of Social and Solidarity Economy (ECOSS) in Beni Mellal or the 15th edition of the International Agricultural Exhibition in Morocco (SIAM) in Meknes. They rather concerned the preparations for the holding of the award ceremonies for the 7th and 8th editions of the National Micro-Entrepreneur Award (PNME), just as they took the form of CMS participation in the following programs: “Min Ajliki” program » the Belgian Association for the Promotion of Education and Training Abroad (APEFE); “Moazara” program of the Ministry of Tourism, Crafts, Air Transport and Social Economy to support its partners; Program of the Mohammed V Foundation for Solidarity, the CMS and the Casablanca-Settat Region to promote micro-economic activities through microcredit; and National Program of CDG Foundation, CMS, FNAM and Jaïda Fund to support income-generating activities.
What is your action plan for this end to the crisis?
We have drawn up a medium-term development plan. It is broken down into a set of pointed, recurrent and new actions, for all of the CMS’s areas of intervention. One of the observations made during this pandemic period and following the two surveys carried out by the CMS, is that digital must be a major focus in our crisis exit plan. To this end, we have already initiated actions and we intend to carry out a large-scale action. We must also, within the framework of the 50-20 law reforming microcredit, adapt the CMS service offers to the expectations of the sector.
What actions do you intend to capitalize on and what are your new directions in this regard?
For the “Training” component, we will continue to capitalize on training for AMC staff and micro-entrepreneurs, which reached a total of more than 70,000 beneficiaries at the end of 2020. In terms of new orientations, an interest will be granted to cooperatives, VSEs and digitalisation. For the “Support & Accompaniment” component, the CMS will capitalize, among other things, on its Regional Micro-entrepreneur Meetings, its contributions for the participation of micro-entrepreneurs in various national and international events, as well as on its participation in the various his partners.
For the new orientations, they will relate to the annual organization of a National Meeting of the micro-entrepreneur, to the provision of marketing spaces in the large surfaces (malls, etc.) and to the facilitation and the support for microcredit beneficiaries in the digitization of their activities. With regard to the “Observatory” component, we will capitalize in particular on the various studies, surveys and reports drawn up, and in terms of new orientations, we will play our sector watch role by providing the sector with relevant and proactive information enabling it to better project oneself.