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.

live below US$2.50 poverty line

What is microfinance?

Microfinance is a type of banking that provides financial services to low income individuals or groups of people who would otherwise have no access to finance. Coupled with ongoing training and support, micro loans are, over a period of time, a long term and sustainable solution to poverty.

Microfinance FAQs

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

With a repayment rate of 97%, the revolving loan book combined with operational interest income enables us to grow and expand our reach, supporting more women year on year. This means every donation to MicroLoan is a gift that keeps on giving.

We provide extensive, ongoing training and support

Before receiving a loan, women take part in seven training sessions. 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 training and mentoring from our Loan & Training Officers, aspiring entrepreneurs become successful businesswomen.

We work in remote, rural regions

Serving remote, rural communities is an expensive model which is often a deterrent for other microfinance institutions. This is another factor that sets us apart. Our Loan & Training Officers travel by bicycle or motorbike to deliver training, disburse loans and collect repayments.

Our loans are very small

Our smallest loans start at US$30, which means that we can make finance accessible for women in the very poorest communities. Each loan must be invested in income generating activities, and is 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.

Over the coming years we will see new agricultural products and services for smallholder farmers, higher value loans for the most successful and ambitious entrepreneurs, and improved savings options through digital channels.

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, whilst farming sustainably to benefit the planet too. We support women to turn their subsistence farms into profitable farming businesses.

Group lending model

We lend to 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 training on setting savings goals. In fact, we deliver a whole training module dedicated to savings. We also 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. This is a crucial element of our model, and our poverty alleviation mission.

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.

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