12 Feb 2016 11:55

Micro-loans provide better living conditions for women

“We want to ease everyday tasks for women and at the same time develop agriculture so that families can increase their income and thus remain in rural areas,” says Mwangi Githaiga, who is president of Kenya Women Microfinance Bank. He participated on Thursday in a seminar at SEB.

Since 2013, SEB has started three funds for microfinance which cater to institutional clients. The aim is to offer customers an attractive investment opportunity with clear social character, where funds are used to create jobs and growth in developing countries.

The three funds have today two billion kronor of assets under management spread over a large number of microfinance institutions around the world. One of these is Kenya Women Microfinance Bank (KWFT), whose CEO is Mwangi Githaiga. Faced with 50 of SEB’s institutional clients, he explained how the business works and how investment capital benefits.

Want to strengthen women's economic position

KWFT caters to families, but has a particular focus on improving living conditions and strengthening women's economic status. This in turn is a key to the small family farms being able to increase revenue and become an integrated part of the economic system.

Eighty percent of customers live in rural areas where most people lack electricity. The women are tied to the kitchen, where they prepare food on stones over an open fire, which is a major health risk as gives as much exposure to harmful smoke as  smoking a pack of cigarettes per day.

KWFT has developed and provides micro-credit for the purchase of solar cookers, among other things, which improves cooking and reduces health risks. The bank also organises educational sessions, which helps families increase milk production and improve crop yields, as well as assisting them to streamline the value chain and remove middlemen - all so that families are can have a small budget surplus and build up savings.

The bank currently has 2,800 employees around the country, serving approximately 775,000 customers. The Bank has a branch network, but employees also go around to remote villages by motorcycle. In addition, there is a mobile banking service that works without smart phones. Total loan portfolio of KWFT amounted to the equivalent of 240 million dollars, while deposits have grown to about 180 million dollars.

New fund in May

Other speakers at the seminar were Roland Dominicé from Symbiotics, SEB's partner in microfinance, as well as Viktor Andersson, manager of the three microfinance funds.

SEB plans to open a fourth microfinance fund in May.