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3.3m borrowers from 164,000 in ’03: LSE, Oxford University organises conference on microfinance and enterprise development

3.3m borrowers from 164,000 in ’03: LSE, Oxford University organises conference on microfinance and enterprise development

LAHORE: In order to bring local and foreign speakers from microfinance institutions, donors, academics and practitioners together, the Lahore School of Economics (LSE) in collaboration with University of Oxford has organised a one-day conference on “Microfinance and Enterprise Development.”

The conference was conducted as part of an on-going project on a comparison of Demand for Micro credit and Micro saving in a framed field experiment in rural Pakistan, which is funded by Economic and Social Research Council-Department of International Development (ESRC-DFID).

LSE Rector Dr Shahid Amjad Chaudhry inaugurated the conference, while the keynote speech was delivered by Dr Rashid Bajwa who showed that the microfinance sector in Pakistan has witnessed a tremendous growth – from 164,000 borrowers in 2003 to 3.3 million borrowers in 2015. At present, there are 50 microfinance providers operating in the country. Moreover, the sector continues to attract foreign investment.

The first session of the conference focused on the current state and future directions of the Microfinance sector. The chairperson for the session was Dr Rashid Bajwa (Chief Executive Officer, NRSP). The session was conducted jointly by Dr Amjad Saqib, Founder and Executive Director, Akhuwat, Syed Mohsin Ahmed, Chief Executive Officer, Microfinance Network, Kamran Azim, Chief Operating Officer, Kashf Foundation and Shahid Maqsood, Chief Operating Officer, FINCA Microfinance Bank Limited.

Dr Amjad Saqib gave a brief overview of the unique model of microfinance that Akhuwat is following based on interest free loans. Syed Mohsin Ahmed discussed an impact assessment study, which PMN is planning to conduct in the near future in order to investigate the impact of microfinance loans on employment and job creation.

Kamran Azim gave an overview of the current approach that is being followed by Kashf Foundation. The strategy focuses on (i) credit programmes with existing businesses as well as start-ups (ii) A large scale financial literacy programme (iii) a health insurance programme as well as support for schools in low income areas and (iv) microsaving products.

The second session of the day served to disseminate and invite feedback on the current research being conducted by Lahore School on Microfinance. The chairperson for the session was Kamran Azim, Chief Operating Officer, Kashf Foundation.

Simon Quinn, Associate Professor and Deputy Director, Centre for the Study of African Economies, University of Oxford presented the first paper in the session written jointly with Uzma Afzal, Giovanna d’Adda, Marcel Fafchamps, and Farah Said, while the discussant for the paper was Tahir Waqar, Senior Programme Manager, National Rural Support Programme (NRSP)).

The paper is based on a recent pilot study conducted in Sargodha, which directly tested between the demand for micro credit and demand for micro savings using a framed field experiment amongst women borrowers of NRSP participating in group lending arrangements in rural parts of Sargodha. The experiment involved randomly offering credit products and savings products to the same subject pool.