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Congress provides more money for microfinance

By Cynthia Greenwood

Let’s celebrate the increase in appropriations for microfinance and microenterprise development for FY2010. It grew from $245 million to $265 million—terrific in a tight budget year. (This is pending a final vote but reflects the conference report from the House and Senate and is likely to pass.)

Also, we are thrilled that Congress has put language in the appropriations report that directs USAID to:
• increase funding for microfinance in Africa
• focus 25% of funding on funding to build the institutional and human capacity of microfinance institutions
• direct at least 50% of funds to not-for-profits (such as Opportunity International) instead of for-profit consulting firms
• increase outreach to women, the poor and very poor, who currently lack access to financial services

Opportunity International co-chairs the Microenterprise Coalition, which works with Congress to ensure microfinance policies that truly benefit the poor and reflect the most strategic, cost-effective use of government funds. We were pleased to have the opportunity to meet with Senate Appropriations Committee staffers to inform them about microfinance and to recommend these key strategies for the committee report. The committee is also keenly interested in the role of private donations and private investment capital in growing microfinance, and how public funds can best work in partnership with private efforts.

This is great news for millions of people in the developing world who desperately need microfinance services to work their way out of poverty.

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