By Betty Milton, awoko.org
The West African Institute for Financial and Economic and Economic Management (WAIFEM) yesterday commenced a 4-day regional course on micro-finance operations and regulation at the Hill Valley Hotel in Freetown.
Reading the keynote address on behalf of the Governor of the Bank of Sierra Leone, I. K. Lamin, Director Financial Market, said that micro-finance is the provision of a broad range of financial services to low-income micro enterprises and households.
The Bank of Sierra Leone Financial Market Director said that micro-finance offers range of services including savings, loans, insurance leasing and money transfers.
This, he said, “is also about providing financial services to the poor who are not served by the conventional formal institutions through innovative delivery channels and methodologies. Microfinance therefore can be one effective tool amongst many for poverty alleviation.”
Speaking about the relationship between the development of microfinance banking model and poverty alleviation, the Director said that both of them haves dominated both research and policy dialogue.
He said “despite countervailing views, the predominance of evidence supports a positive relationship between microfinance and poverty alleviation,” adding that “poverty is associated with a shortage for man’s basic needs of clothing, shelter and food and that the issue of poverty has assumed a wide-world dimension”.
I.K. Lamin noted that within the sub-region, poverty remains one major setback to economic growth and development, saying; “this has accentuated during the recent instability that engulfed some countries in the sub-region.”
He went on to state that robust economic growth cannot be achieved without a well-focused programme to reduce poverty, therefore, the Government of Sierra Leone under the President’s Agenda for Change, with the Bank of Sierra Leone as the lead, has placed increasing access to finance as one of the four pillars of its Financial Sector Development Plan (FSDP).
The FSDP strategies, he said, include building a strong, sound and effectively functioning banking systems, to increase access to finance by broadcasting its outreach, strengthening microfinance rural credit governance and supervision and putting in place reforms to address all licensed distress microfinance institutions, and to improve mobilization and investment of long term funds.
Welcoming participants, Director General WAIFEM, Professor Akpan Ekpo, gave a background of the organisation which, he said, was established in 1996 by the Central Banks of the Gambia, Ghana, Liberia, Nigeria and Sierra Leone, with the aim of building a sustainable capacity for improved macro-economic and financial management.
Prof. Ekpo stated that in 2001, WAIFEM made a paradigm shift to medium-term integrated capacity building “as at end June 2011, and over 10,200 participants including ministers, governors, central banks and other officials of the economy have benefited from the institutes’ programme.”
Poverty, he went on “is the state of human beings who are poor, and they do not have no material means of surviving-little or no food, shelter, healthcare, education and other physical means of living and improving one’s life.”
He added that “sustainable microfinance for the poor, while not a panacea, is still the most powerful tool to provide a dignified route out of poverty for hundreds of millions, while the gap between the supply and demand for microfinance services is huge,” the Director said.
The objective of the course is to enable participants to learn innovative strategies in leadership and management of microfinance institutions.