Monday, January 21, 2013

Gambia’s micro finance industry at cross-roads

RFP is an IFAD-funded project in The Gambia
Lamin J.S. Fatajo, coordinator of Rural Finance Project, RFP, is of the view that the micro finance industry in The Gambia is at cross-roads.

He said actors must take a critical and active role in designing and reviewing issues that are of concern to microfinance institutions in the West African country, the smallest in mainland Africa.

He was speaking last week at Wellingara during an RFP-organised stakeholders-workshop to draw and finalize the Annual Work Plan and Budget (AWPB 2013-2014) and to review and validate the External Evaluation Survey report on the impact of RFP implementation.

The micro finance industry in The Gambia is facing lot of challenges, key among them being unclear operational modalities that can translate Gambia National Agricultural Investment Plan (GNIAP) and Agricultural Natural Resources (ANR) policy objectives of using micro finance institutions (MFIs) for savings mobilization and credit delivery adopted to the needs of ANR sector, Mr Fatajo said.

“The pronouncement or emphases on commercial banks providing the necessary credit in the value chains without clear linkage with the MFIs can further slowdown little progress made in the MFI subsector,” he observed.

Although GNIAP implementation provided the framework for the role of MFIs and the consolidation of the existing funds available within the sector, Mr Fatajo further observed “The initial projects under GNIAP did not account for this funds which could have spelt out the role of MFIs in the value chain implementation.”

Stakeholders at the meeting admitted there is a need for MFIs to endeavor more to show results and impact to gain credibility and acceptability. But Fatajo said this does not mean that the MFIs are not having impact on the lives of ANR sector beneficiaries.

A recent survey conducted in the National Village Savings and Credit Association (VISACA) communities indicated that 77% of the respondents obtained their loans from VISACAs while 18% sourced their credit from other MFIs like National Cooperative Credit Union of The Gambia (NACCUG) and the Gambia Women's Finance Association (GAWFA) – where all three institutions resenting a total of 95%, only about 4% access credit through commercial banks.

This means that commercial banks are yet to have the required rural presence to become serious providers of rural finance to ANR sector beneficiaries, Fatajo concluded.

Ashme Cole, deputy permanent secretary, projects and programmes, ministry of agriculture, MoA, says RFP, an International Fund for Agricultural Development, IFAD-funded project in The Gambia, seeks to facilitate access to quality financial services.

Cole said it is recommended that at the end of the year all partners of RFP meet to review activities planned and implemented and as reflect on what needs to be done in the coming year.

“We will be reviewing the Impact Assessment Survey Report, this will give the partners the opportunity to know the impact the project has made on the lives of the targeted beneficiaries," Cole said.

Cole commends RFP and its partners for “improving” the livelihood of many Gambians through their "successful" implementation of projects in 2012. 

Partners at the annual consultative workshop include Gambia Women's Finance Association (GAWFA), National Cooperative Credit Union of The Gambia (NACCUG), Village Savings and Credit Association's Apex Body (V-APEX), the National Village Savings and Credit Association-Technical Service Providers (NAVISACA-TSP), Micro-finance Promotion Centre (MFPC), Gambia Microfinance Institution’s Network (GAMFINENT), Central Bank of The Gambia (CBG), Department of Agriculture (DoA), Ministry of Agriculture (MoA) and Central Projects Coordinating Unit (CPCU).

Written by Modou S. Joof

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