Macro Crisis, Micro Solutions?
On Microfinance as a Lever against Poverty

webinar on 9 February 2021

While the COVID-19 pandemic is especially weakening economies in developing countries, microfinance players are taking action to support their most vulnerable clients. The portfolios of microfinance institutions (‘MFIs’) have a significant share of the informal sector, a predominance of trade/commerce activities and vulnerable clients who have few resources to cushion the impacts of the crisis. They operate in developing countries where state aid is wanting.

The crisis has affected global capital markets and local economies down to the poorest neighbourhoods. Microfinance institutions are under pressure from both sides. The crisis has created significant challenges for both the demand side, low-income borrowers struggling to repay their microloans, and the supply side, providers facing their own funding pressures. Borrowers need relief from debts incurred before the pandemic while lenders are not in a position to give that relief without receiving assistance themselves.

Lockdown has caused a sharp drop in income for microfinance borrowers, who have little in the form of savings. The industry relies to a large extent on social investors, who are struggling themselves today. The pandemic exposes the fragility of that capital structure. While in many countries regulators and central banks take steps to ensure the stability of the traditionally regulated banking systems, MFIs receive less attention, while they play a vital role in the financial lives of poor households.

Microfinance can be a driver of poverty reduction and economic development in response to the health crisis. It provides credit to 140 million people on low incomes across the world, 80% of them women and 65% living in rural areas. MFIs are in the frontline in the global response to the impacts of the pandemic. They are taking action to safeguard their survival and the financial empowerment of all these populations excluded from the traditional banking system.

In this debate following questions will be addressed:

  • How effective is microfinance in the fight against poverty?
  • Can it cope with this sort of crisis?
  • Does microfinance need to be revisited?

Date & Time

Tuesday 9 February 2021
4.00 – 5.30 p.m. UTC+1
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Online via Zoom.
How does it work?


Free entrance.
Please register online in advance.


4.00 p.m.

Introduction by moderator Tom De Herdt, professor at the Institute of Development Policy, University of Antwerp

4.10 p.m.

Presentation by Cecile Lapenu, Executive Director of CERISE

Cécile Lapenu is Executive Director of CERISE. She held the presidency of the European Microfinance Platform (eMFP) in 2013, is a Board member of the Social Performance Task Force (SPTF). Before joining CERISE in 2001, she worked as an expert in Rural Finance for IFPRI and CIRAD. A PhD in agricultural economics, Cécile defended her doctoral thesis in 1996 on microfinance in Indonesia. Created in 1998, CERISE is a French non-profit organization dedicated to responsible and ethical finance. Pioneer in social performance management, CERISE is dedicated to finding solutions for mission-driven organizations to make their social goals a reality.

4.40 p.m.

Response by Loïc De Cannière, CEO of INCOFIN

Loïc De Cannière is the CEO of Incofin Investment Management. Since 2001, he has turned Incofin into one of the most prominent microfinance and impact investment fund managers. Loïc is a strong promoter of social performance parameters into impact investing and participates in leading industry initiatives.

4.55 p.m.

Response by Johan Bastiaensen, Director of the Institute of Development Policy, University of Antwerp

Johan Bastiaensen has an historical research interest in microfinance for rural development, immediately related to his involvement in the creation and the development of the Fondo de Desarrollo Local (FDL), the largest and most rural/agricultural microfinance institution in Nicaragua.

5.10 p.m.
5.30 p.m.

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Free entrance, but online registration is mandatory!

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