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Should we fear the microfinance boom? – Young Africa

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Nearly 1,800: this is the impressive number of microfinance institutions and credit cooperatives identified in sub-Saharan Africa. A figure which continues to increase, but which must be taken with caution. The vast majority of decentralized financial systems – to use banking jargon – remain small players totaling less than 5 million dollars (4.1 million euros) in assets.

But things are changing fast: according to statistics from the Central Bank of West African States (BCEAO), outstanding loans from the zone’s decentralized financial systems jumped by 70% between 2009 and 2014, to reach 855.7 billion CFA francs (approximately 1.3 billion euros). Above all, a few behemoths have emerged. The Cameroon Cooperative Credit Union League (Camccul) has doubled its loan portfolio since 2009, which now stands at the equivalent of $186.7 million.

Crédit Mutuel du Sénégal has multiplied its balance sheet total by 6 in ten years, thus overtaking the local subsidiaries of Banque Atlantique and Bank of Africa (BOA)

In Congo, the total credit of the Federation of Congolese Savings and Credit Mutuals (Mucodec) increased by 137% over the same period, to exceed $80 million. And Crédit Mutuel du Sénégal has multiplied its balance sheet total by 6 in ten years, thus overtaking the local subsidiaries of Banque Atlantique and Bank of Africa (BOA) and closely approaching that of BNP Paribas.

Worrying? No doubt, because even if the supervisory authorities are now closely monitoring the major microfinance institutions, the large number of players makes the project complex. The professionalization of the profession is however a reassuring factor: structured groups, supported by international development financial institutions, are rapidly growing (Microcred, Access Holding, Advans, etc.).

Banks, traditional partners of decentralized financial systems (they keep their deposits and grant them liquidity), are increasingly involved in microfinance. Or by developing their own structures, as Ecobank does with its Pan-African Savings and Loans network. Either by taking capital shares here and there, as BOA did in several Microcred subsidiaries.



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