Recently, Drew Boshell, the Executive Director of FINCA Canada, spoke on the CanadianSME Small Business Podcast, discussing the Financial Inclusion Project and FINCA Canada’s ongoing support in Haiti and the Democratic Republic of the Congo. The project, supported by the Government of Canada, helped to promote economic prosperity for low-income women and men by providing them with the means to grow their small businesses, increase their incomes, and save for the future.
The end of 2022 commemorates the conclusion of year five of the Financial Inclusion Project. Haiti and the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC) have been some of the hardest hit by the economic crisis following the global pandemic and the war on Ukraine. With both countries undergoing accessibility restraints to common lifestyle necessities, street and gang violence have become more apparent. This has made it difficult for our beneficiaries to conduct business as usual safely and effectively. Yet, in partnership with the Government of Canada, the Financial Inclusion Project has continued to outshine expectations, progressing new projects and missions forward despite the social, political or environmental limitations these countries may face.
This year posed new, unexpected challenges as countries worldwide continued to feel the effects of the pandemic and other global events causing high inflation rates. During this time, we significantly improved the yearly income and poverty rate in both Haiti and the DRC, with Haiti’s income rate improving by 50 percent in 2022, and the DRC’s improving by 30 percent. This has resulted in an overall improvement in poverty rates which fell from 12 percent to 9 percent in the last year for the DRC and 34.6 percent to 32.6 percent in Haiti.
Overcoming challenges and achieving milestones
FINCA Haiti closed year five of the project with 45,202 active loan clients (89% women), and 323,845 active clients in the DRC (30% women). The Juste Pour Elle loan product, which launched in the DRC in March 2021, has done exceptionally well and has been able to target MSME’s controlled by women, with 1,468 active female customers. Since the start of the project, the product has been able to give 3,013 loans with a total amount of $21 million USD overall. This project continues to have life-changing impacts on female entrepreneurs, offering opportunities for Congolese women to access the capital they need.
Haiti’s agriculture loan product has also experienced successful results in 2022, with 1,658 active loan clients. Eighty-one percent of these clients are women, surpassing its year-end target of 1,400 active clients, with 60 percent being women.
Other key milestones in Haiti and the DRC include:
- Financial literacy training, with a focus on women, had a positive outcome in both countries: FINCA Haiti successfully trained 102,629 VB clients in financial literacy (91% women), and the DRC has trained 163,782 clients (51% women), surpassing all targets in both countries.
- Increased capacity of staff to implement gender-focused initiatives: Three diversity and inclusion courses and training programs, such as Customer Experience training and the Gender Action Plans, were made available for training staff in Haiti, the DRC and all FINCA subsidiaries around the world.
- Haiti and the DRC engaged in knowledge sharing with other microfinance institutions: FINCA DRC led the annual meeting of the National Association of Microfinance Institutions in August 2022, where knowledge was shared on digitalization, using the national switch, how to empower women and surpass bias, as well as provide financial education. FINCA DRC is the only microfinance institution to demonstrate training to non-clients and leverage inclusivity and sustainable development.
To help make the best financial choices for themselves and their families, FINCA DRC created and published 22 educational videos for social media. To boost engagement and in with the audience, FINCA DRC hired local comedians to ensure the videos were not only informative, but funny. With over 20,000 views in only one night, it is safe to say the videos are a hit. Many people in DRC are now laughing and learning valuable information about the impact financial choices can have on themselves, their family, and the community.
A Culture Shift – The Importance of Financial Education in The DRC
As a socially responsible organization, FINCA offers innovative and sustainable financial solutions to improve people’s lives. To ensure our 350,000 clients through 21 Branches and 1600 FINCA eXpress points, understand how our banking products can help, and to change the culture and values around savings, the education series focused on financial literacy. Topics covered include, why it’s necessary to regularly save for the future, differentiating a need from a desire, learning how to create a budget and track expenses, and how to utilize loans effectively to build wealth and stability.
The education trainings have been instrumental in helping women like Emilie Nzumba, shopkeeper, widow, and mother.
According to Emilie, “I was sensitized to follow a training in financial education given by FINCA last year. I did not see any importance on that because I had a bad perception of financial institutions. However, since I was trained, I have changed my way of life. I now manage my expenses very well and save more than I used to do before. With my savings from my small business income, I manage to feed my family, provide for other household needs, maintain balance in my business and pay my children’s school fees.”
The Story of an Entrepreneurial Woman
Like Emilie, Albertine Masuka has also benefited. She is a female entrepreneur and mother.
Albertine had this to say after taking the training; “Since I took this training in financial education, the concepts learned have completely changed my life and the way to manage my incomes. This change has been supported especially by lessons I learned on how to manage my money and mostly building a saving culture. I was struggling to cover my health care costs, but today with my savings, I have succeeded to get a license to open a small health center that helps a lot of communities in my neighbourhood as I live in peri-urban areas. I since have been able to buy more land in the provinces and continue with my agricultural activities. According to what I am today, I started sensitizing women in my community to help them benefit, like me, from this free training in financial education given by FINCA.”
By offering financial literacy tools that are culturally relevant, FINCA is changing perceptions on savings and with it helping to build economic resiliency in DR Congo. Click here to learn more
One of the challenges of providing savings services to the unbanked is that many new customers fail to use the account beyond the initial deposit, a problem known as dormancy. In a recent study from Uganda, a low-cost coaching intervention produced significantly higher levels of account activity and use of banking agents, with stronger effects on women. The pattern of account usage reflects the role that formal savings play in helping customers satisfy short- and medium-term cash needs. In qualitative interviews with FINCA Uganda’s women clients, they explained that coaching fostered a greater sense of trust and relationship with the bank and that it encouraged them to set aside even small sums as a form of protection against an uncertain future.
Promoting the Use of Savings Accounts
Low-income individuals have a safe, official option in the form of bank accounts to conventional saving methods like ROSCAs and keeping money around the home. Despite the efforts of several financial institutions to attract these base-of-the-pyramid savers through novel products and distribution methods, there is a tendency for newly opened accounts to quickly become dormant, with no more activities than the initial contribution. The prevalence of dormant accounts raises concerns that formal savings services may not provide customers with an advantage while also posing administrative and security challenges for banks due to the lack of consumer monitoring, which leaves them vulnerable to fraud.
To combat the problem of dormant accounts, the World Savings and Retail Banking Institute (WSBI) funded a study to test improvements that might drive more active usage, emphasizing goal setting, incentives to save, and enhancing the customer experience.
The Effects of Remote Coaching
The study found that while remote coaching significantly boosted the use of banking agents and the values of transactions, deposits, and withdrawals, it had no impact on average account balances. The results among the study’s women participants discovered that the number of deposits made by women grew by 86 percent, and their overall number of transactions doubled.
Factors associated with increased savings by women include the potential for protection against uncertainty, an optimistic view of the future, increased self-esteem, women’s empowerment and access to convenient and user-friendly services. To boost women’s confidence in savings, the authors propose the following “fundamentals of inclusive savings:”
- provide a simple service
- charge no fees
- offer access to live help when needed
- provide privacy and safety
This research was conducted by Scott Graham, Anahit Tevosyan and Nathaniel Mayende at FINCA, together with Ester Agasha from the Makerere University Business School, Dr. Joeri Smits and Sally Yacoub.
To learn more, read the full report here.
Since Russia invaded Ukraine, FINCA has supported Sisu Global in delivering their flagship autotransfusion device to support saving lives in Ukraine. The device, called Hemafuse, enables surgeons to capture and reuse a trauma patient’s own blood. It is extremely useful in cases in which patients have massive blood loss. Equally importantly, unlike traditional transfusion devices, Hemafuse doesn’t need electricity. It is fully manually operated.
Sisu developed Hemafuse for use in sub-Saharan Africa, where there is a shortage of donated blood, and electric power is irregular. Due to the ongoing war, donated blood also is in short supply in Ukraine. And access to electricity is an increasing concern in Ukraine hospitals, not to mention in trauma units close to the front lines.
Hemafuse in Ukraine
Dr. Konstantin recently explained how Hemafuse is saving lives in Ukraine. According to Dr. Konstantin, surgeons are using the device “when the patient has massive blood loss in the cavity of the human body, for example, an injury to the liver or spleen… The operating nurse places [the tip of the Hemafuse device] in the wound, which is sterile and draws blood from the wound into certain containers. After that, the blood returns to the vascular bed of the human body. The manipulation is very simple but effective.”
By raising $55,000 early in the year, FINCA helped Sisu deliver the first batch of 500 units of Hemafuse (good for 500 surgeries) in April. By June, with another $55,000 being raised, Sisu sent 505 more surgeries worth of Hemafuse to Ukraine.
Since then, according to a report from our partner in Ukraine, “doctors have used Hemafuse to perform intraoperative blood transfusions when emergency blood supplies run low… Most operations using Hemafuse have been performed at the Kyiv Heart Institute. At the same time, other recipients include Kyiv Hospital No. 17, 10th City Clinical Hospital, Shalimov Institute, and Eb 117, a special military unit that provides emergency care in the field. Hemafuse has allowed doctors to recycle blood from patients with internal bleeding, reducing the need for donor blood, and is serving as a critical, life-saving instrument in Ukraine at this very moment.”
Greater Need for Saving Lives in Ukraine
Demand for Hemafuse remains high in Ukraine. Hospitals across the country are urgently requesting units to treat patients in need of a blood transfusion. Many of the Hemafuse units delivered to date have gone to Kyiv. The focus now is on getting units to Kharkiv, closer to the front lines of the war. FINCA continues to seek donations to support the effort.
Our local partner recently conducted training in Kharkiv.
You can help advance FINCA’s and Sisu’s efforts to save lives in Ukraine. Your financial support ensures that more Ukrainian trauma patients get the necessary care.
With your support, FINCA Canada works to lift people out of poverty by providing lasting solutions that help people – women in particular – develop assets, create jobs, and raise their standards of living. Building economic resilience to lessen the impact of climate change and food security is a call to action. According to the World Food Program, we are facing an unprecedented global food crisis, with 828 million people facing hunger with 2/3rds being women.
You can help! Share why you chose to give to FINCA Canada with others in your community.
Tracey, a student at the University of Toronto, Mississauga Campus, is moved by FINCA’s focus on helping women create economic independence. Using this inspiration, she started a FINCA Canada campus club, where she shares our work with faculty and students.
Like Tracey, you can have a powerful impact. Consider inspiring others to action by doing the following:
- Share this post with 2 friends and tell them why you made the personal decision to support FINCA’s programs
- Get your workplace involved, consider employee match programs or corporate giving options
- Ask your service club or religious community to host a FINCA lunch and learn
- Share an online success story that resonates with you on your social media
- Host a fundraising event in support of FINCA’s work
- If you are a student like Tracey, build a presence on your campus by creating a club or special event
By sharing why you chose to partner with us, you will inspire others and help prevent people from falling back into extreme poverty.
While revolutionary technological advancements have progressed in the financial sector globally, numerous developing countries have been struggling to provide their citizens with essential access to financial products. FINCA Canada, in partnership with the Government of Canada, has recognized a widening divide within the Haitian population between those supported and under-supported by financial institutions. The Financial Inclusion Project, among other forms of research, has provided a deeper analysis of the spending and savings habits of those living in underdeveloped populations, highlighting limited accessibility of financial services, such as savings programs, as a top constraint to accomplishing economic prosperity.
Over the last five years, FINCA Canada has distinguished the financial barriers associated with the people of Haiti as they continue to battle through this economic recovery. For years, Haitians have been subjected to banking services beyond their reach, as most banking operations take place in Port-au-Prince, limiting access to those in the surrounding rural areas. Without the help of banks, those in need of savings or financial support opt for loan sharks with higher rates that feedback within the cycle of poverty.
Providing Haitians with a reliable alternative
In August 2020, the Haitian Government implemented new regulations for microfinance institutions, which allow them to provide and operate savings accounts for clients directly. FINCA Haiti is among the few institutions that were granted this savings license and is currently developing a savings mobilization strategy that will increase the deployment of savings through FINCA branches, MonCash banking agents and partner banks. After successfully establishing a savings structure, FINCA Haiti served its first institutional Term Deposit client in August 2022 for an amount of 100M HTG ($862,891 USD).
In addition to term deposits, FINCA Haiti has recently developed two other savings products – current accounts and savings accounts (including a new micro-savings product) – which will soon be available in all its branches. When properly used, FINCA’s financial products are great tools for beneficiaries to improve their financial health, control their economic future and raise their standard of living.
Establishing availability, security and trust
In countries like Haiti, where traditional financial service providers are not available or accessible to many citizens, microfinance providers have become a more viable alternative with their smaller transactions and amounts.
Microfinance institutions normally cater to small businesses and individuals. They issue small loans that could be used to cover immediate personal and business costs. The smaller transaction sizes and repayable sums allow microfinance institutions to keep rates lower than defaults in major banks.
As an alternative bank for marginalized customers, microfinance institutions help alleviate the country’s extreme poverty by offering affordable loans to those with immediate needs.
To encourage more Haitians to leverage its key financial services, FINCA is committed to continuing to provide Haitians with financial literacy programs that will highlight the benefits of utilizing financial tools available in the market.
Gender inequality in the forms of financial and economic exclusion continues to be an obstacle for women in Haiti. As such, FINCA’s Financial Inclusion Project aims to mitigate these barriers by continuing to provide financial products that suit gender-centric and low-income needs.
By offering client-centred, gender-equal and human-rights-focused financial tools, FINCA aims to continue helping Haitians achieve financial independence and resilience today and for years to come.
Click here to learn more about how the FINCA Canada Financial Inclusion Project has developed and promoted economic prosperity for low-income women and men in Haiti and the DRC through microfinance institutions, technology and training.
In 2022, the world is facing an unprecedented year of hunger. High food prices have triggered a global crisis driving millions more people into extreme poverty and magnifying hunger and malnutrition. 828 million people were facing hunger in 2021 – 46 million more than in 2020 and 150 million more than in 2019, and numbers are projected to increase this year, according to a FAO-WFP report.
There are three main contributors to the world food crisis. The main driver being conflict such as the war in Ukraine, which has decreased grain exports and supplies of fertilizer from Russia. 60 percent of the worlds hungry live in areas afflicted by war and violence. A clear example is Haiti, where 45 percent of the population, or 4.5 million people, are facing acute hunger due to hyperinflation of imported foods and gang violence. A second factor is economic downturns, with COVID-19 and associated food supply disruptions being one of the major reasons most poor countries are facing significant food shortages. A third factor is climate change, such as significant floods and heatwaves in 2021, which destroyed key crops in the Americas and Europe and the more recent flooding in Pakistan, which has destroyed over $3 billion dollars of crops.
With the increasing food insecurity also comes a worsening gender disparity in food access. Of the estimated 828 million people globally who were affected by hunger in 2021, approximately two-thirds are women.
FINCA is Increasing Food Security with Agricultural Loans
To address these issues, FINCA has created a number of products to support small-scale farmers, increasing food security for their families and community with a particular focus on women. FINCA knows that investing in women results in better results as land managed by women, on average, are 20% more productive and therefore contributes towards food security. This is supported by a 2021 study from Burundi that found that investing in gender equality in agriculture brought a $5 return for every $1 invested, compared to a $2 return for every $1 invested in agriculture programs that ignored gender equality.
A successful example can be seen in Haiti, where an agriculture loan product was launched in 2021 based on input from an agricultural expert from Oxford University. Since its launch, it has continued to be very successful, especially among women. Of the 1,822 beneficiaries, 82% are women, which surpassed the target of 1,400 clients (60% women). To support these special loans, FINCA Haiti recruited 32 hybrid loan officers specifically trained in the agriculture loan product. It provided technical assistance to clients on business development, natural resource management, and climate change adaptation. The agricultural loan product is available at every FINCA branch in Haiti, with the regions of Pétionville, Saint-Marc, Leogane, Jacmel and Gonaives having the greatest clientele. In recent months this support has been critical as Haiti has one of the highest levels of food insecurity in the world. While the international community is mobilizing to address the security concerns in the country, FINCA is actively helping families and communities increase local crop production.
To bring much-needed assistance to FINCA clients overwhelmed by the recent flooding in Pakistan, FINCA Canada, together with FINCA International, has launched an Emergency Response Fund. With a goal of raising $1.5 million, the fund will provide aid to 15,000 of FINCA Pakistan’s affected clients and staff.
Since mid-June, torrential monsoon rains have left one-third of Pakistan underwater. The flooding and landslides have tragically claimed the lives of 1,500 people and harmed the lives and livelihoods of over 33 million women, men and children.
The inundation washed away countless homes and caused tens of billions of dollars of damage. Waterborne diseases now pose a serious health threat. Hydrologists say it may take six months for deadly flood waters to recede in the country’s hardest-hit areas.
The catastrophic flooding in Pakistan has touched everyone. FINCA Pakistan reports that the floods have directly impacted at least 15,000 clients and staff. The number of affected clients is expected to increase. FINCA Pakistan continues to assess the extent of the damage, as large areas of the country are still inaccessible.
FINCA Pakistan’s rural clients have been most severely impacted. Over 13,000 clients have lost crops, land and livestock in the floods. These losses are consequential in local communities. On average, FINCA clients hire 2.7 employees, and their micro-enterprises play an essential role in local food supply chains.
The United Nations and the Government of Pakistan stress that distributing cash is the fastest and most efficient method of helping people. Through its digital mobile wallet app, FINCA Pakistan is in an excellent position to meet this need. Most of FINCA Pakistan’s staff and clients can safely and securely receive money through their mobile phones—access that is not common in Pakistan.
To support the relief effort, FINCA Canada has launched the FINCA Canada Emergency Response Fund. Donations will enable families to meet their immediate needs of food, clean water and shelter. It will help them clean up and repair flooded homes and businesses. The fund will also aid agricultural clients to restart their businesses, which are essential sources of food security in their local community.
Donations to the FINCA Emergency Response Fund are fully tax-deductible and can be made online at FINCACanada.org/PakistanFlood. You can also make a gift through your donor-advised fund, stock or by mail.
Please make a generous gift today to the FINCA Canada Emergency Response Fund.