A truly social microfinance model

We are committed to serving the poorest segment of the population and our model is designed specifically for rural women with low levels of education and literacy.

We only work with women

In Malawi, Zambia and Zimbabwe, many women are held back from engaging in economic life. They are less likely to get an education, and many women are married at a young age to relieve the financial burden on their parents. Cultural norms and legal structures, such as inheritance and land ownership rights, reinforce inequality and hamper women’s economic empowerment.

Empowering women has positive repercussions for everyone in the community. Research shows that women are much more altruistic with their incomes. According to World Bank, women reinvest 90% of every dollar that they earn back into their families’ education, health and nutrition. This means that by supporting women, we improve access to nutritious food, healthcare and education for children and dependants too.

What’s more, women are more likely to repay their loans. There is a wealth of research to prove this. When loans are repaid to MicroLoan, they can be used again and again to support more women to feed their families. This means that by supporting women, our reach is wider, and our impact is greater.

Our loans are repaid

96% of loans are repaid which means the capital can be reused to help even more women to build businesses.

Many of the women we work with are illiterate

Many of the women in MicroLoan’s network left education early and have low levels of literacy, so our business and financial literacy training is done through visual aids, song, dance and role-play. When this is coupled with loan capital, peer-to-peer support and ongoing mentoring, aspiring entrepreneurs become successful businesswomen.

We work in remote, rural regions

We reach the poorest of the poor in remote communities in Malawi, Zambia and Zimbabwe. Loan and Training Officers travel by bicycle and motorbike to deliver training, disburse loans and collect repayments.

Our loans are very small

Our smallest loans start at £20 so that we can make finance accessible for even the very poorest women. The loan must be invested in income generating activities, and are repaid over a four or six month cycle. Many women take out multiple loans with us as they scale up their businesses year after year.


The role of agriculture

90% of women in our network are female smallholder farmers, some of the very poorest people in the world. We provide a number of loan products specifically suited to farmers, and we work with partner organisations to deliver training in conservation farming techniques to support women to maximise their yields and their profits. We support women to turn their subsistence farms into profitable farming businesses.

Group lending model

We never take collateral. Instead, we loan in groups of five women. This means that women are jointly responsible for their loans, and therefore for each other’s businesses. This means that if one woman in the group cannot run her business, her group can support her to ensure she does not lose her source of income. Our group lending model is also hugely beneficial for peer-to-peer support and mentorship. The women form their own groups, so they are already friends within their communities before taking out a loan with MicroLoan. Our centre model means that clusters of groups of five come together once every month to access further training and learn from fellow entrepreneurs.

We encourage savings behaviour

We provide savings facilities to encourage women to make savings as insurance against future crop failure, family illness and other unpredictable situations. Savings build resilience and give women confidence in their ability to weather emergencies such as extreme weather conditions or pandemics.

Building a sustainable model

We charge interest on our loans because we are working towards Operational Self-Sufficiency. Our social microfinance model is high-touch and therefore expensive. Our aim is for interest rates to cover operational costs so that we don’t just maintain our loan book but we can grow our outreach to support even more women and their families.

To fund our operations, we not only fundraise in the UK, USA and Australia, but we take on social impact investment too.

Include a business perspective looking at growth in loan book and active clients, operational plans to achieve OSS and looking at investment and funding needs in a five year perspective? It can then link to the country pages.

How does it work in practise?

  • Our Loan and Training Officers (LTOs) travel on motorbikes to rural areas to meet with community leaders.
  • They identify the women who are most in need and have the potential to run a business.
  • These women then form groups (around 5 members). They attend eight training sessions to learn about business principles, like how to budget and make a modest profit.
  • The women in the groups receive their loans. We help them to open a bank account where they can put their savings.
  • The women start trading in their new businesses. These might include selling vegetables, trading second hand clothes, or making tea and fritters.
  • Every two weeks the groups have training and pay back their loans in small instalments.
  • After four months (on average) the women have repaid their loans and are earning a regular income. As a result they can then apply for another loan to help grow their business.
  • With up to 97% of loans repaid, we use the money to help even more women start a business. Therefore, a small investment goes on working time and time again.

Our Partners