Access, Belize firm win Citi microfinance award

Access, Belize firm win Citi microfinance award

Surinamese entrepreneur wins special award

Thursday, November 07, 2013

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JAMAICAN firm Access Financial Services was one of two companies that received top honours for excellence in microfinance at the 2nd Annual Citi Microentrepreneurship Awards ceremony last week.

The other company was La Inmaculada Credit Union of Belize. Access and La Inmaculada took home US$5,000 ($522,000) each, respectively, for product innovation and transparency.

The Citi Microentrepreneurship Awards programme, which recognises Microfinance Institutions (MFIs) and microentrepreneurs that have demonstrated remarkable success in the Caribbean, aims to raise awareness about microfinancing in the Caribbean and about the important role microentrepreneurs play in regional economies.

Financed by the Citi Foundation, it is administered by the Caribbean MicroFinance Alliance, a network of over 20 microfinance practitioners and advocates working to promote the development of a responsible and sustainable industry in the region. The CMFA is a beneficiary of the Caribbean Capacity Building Project (CARIB-CAP II), which is jointly funded by the Multilateral Investment Fund (a member of the Inter-American Development Bank Group), European Commission, Citi Foundation and Caribbean Development Bank, and managed by the Jamaica-based consultancy firm, Development Options Ltd. CARIB-CAP II aims to create a more developed microfinance industry in the English-speaking Caribbean by improving MFI outreach and financial performance and fostering a knowledge-sharing eco system for MFIs in the region.

Speaking at the awards ceremony held at the Courtleigh Hotel & Suites in Jamaica, Citi Country Officer in Jamaica Peter Moses said that the bank was proud to work with its partners "in supporting the journey from ambition to achievement".

Citi's goal is to build strategic partnerships capable of reaching the scale necessary to tackle the more relevant social issues in each market/region in which the bank operates and the partnership with the CMFA and IDB, through the CARIB-CAP II programme is a strong example of this," Moses said.

Moses added that the awards programme is also part of "Citi's commitment to the economic empowerment and financial inclusion of the communities where we live and work". He noted, too, that this year Citi is financing 71 initiatives throughout Latin America and the Caribbean with over US$5.2 million in contributions as the organisation believes that "microfinance institutions are best suited to drive change based on their profound knowledge of the communities and their needs."

IDB Country Representative, Therese Turner-Jones said that equitable access to financing for microentrepreneurs was still a challenge in the English-speaking Caribbean and the CARIB-CAP project, through its support to MFIs and credit unions was playing a critical role in reversing this trend.

Access Financial Services was recognised for its Microbiz Partner Loan, the first of its kind in Jamaica to require neither physical collateral nor a guarantor. The loan programme also features a shorter and less intrusive loan process and is now serving more than 4,400 clients while maintaining a portfolio-at-risk (PAR-30) of 5.6 per cent.

Established in 2000, Access Financial Services has a network of 15 branches serving over 15,000 active loan clients throughout Jamaica. Last year the company recorded a 15 per cent growth in client base, 65 per cent of whom are women and 63 per cent of whom are from low to lower-middle-income groups. Some 82 per cent are from the rural areas of Jamaica. This is the second year that the company is winning an award.

Belize's La Inmaculada Credit Union was recognised for its dedication to informing clients of the terms and details of their financial services and actively educating and training them on how best to utilise the Credit Union's services. In operation since 1949, the company enjoyed 15 per cent growth in 2012 and had a portfolio of 597 active loan clients and a portfolio-at-risk (PAR-30) of 4.3 per cent.

A special Excellence in Microentrepreneurship in Suriname Award of US$3,000 went to Chef Jurgen Emilio Boodie of Restaurant JiJi's.

Chef Jurgen Boodie and his girlfriend Abygail started a catering business in 2006 which blossomed into Restaurant JiJi's in 2010. The business employs 10 and the recent purchase of a neighbouring bar has seen an increase in capacity from 22 to 60 guests and an expanded menu. The duo support their local community by collecting money for a local orphanage and hosting an annual event for the children. Restaurant JiJi's was nominated for the Citi Microentrepreneurship Award by Finatrust de Trustbank NV which provides financial services to the company in Suriname.

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