On September 20, 2018, the selection Committee of the European microfinance award 2018 “financial inclusion through technology” selected three finalists to participate in the competition for the prize of 100 000 euros: Advans CI of Ivory Coast, ESAF Small Finance Bank of India and KMF of Kazakhstan.
This year, the Award has highlighted the role of technology in advancing financial inclusion, showing how technology-enabled services and solutions can help financial services providers such as microfinance institutions increase outreach to low-income and vulnerable segments, offering products and services capable of responding to clients’ needs for trust, speed, low cost, security, usability, and transparency.
The theme of this year’s Award is a response to arguably the most important trend currently underway in the financial inclusion sector. Financial technology can reduce the costs of expensive, human-intensive ‘traditional’ microfinance, facilitate communication and exchange of information, improve the speed and reliability of financial services in remote areas, leverage new software, hardware and data sources and bring into the financial ecosystem particular segments that brick-and-mortar microfinance models struggle to sustainably reach. To this end, a wide range of providers emerged to provide an equally wide range of client-facing and back office services and solutions, facilitating new ways for microfinance clients to borrow, save, insure themselves and their livelihoods, and send money.
The three finalists have implemented different and outstanding technology initiatives to respond to a variety of challenges. For instance, Advans CI was chosen its innovative digital payment and savings solution for cocoa farmers and cooperatives, ESAF Small Finance Bank for its range of back and front-end digital solutions for staff and clients alike and KMF for its use of in-house software and tablets to serve clients in extremely remote areas of Kazakhstan.
The Selection Committee was composed of a group of 18 experts, including members of the European Microfinance Platform (e-MFP) and the Inclusive Finance Network Luxembourg (InFiNe.lu). The winner will be chosen from the three finalists by a High Jury and announced on the 15 November 2018 at a ceremony hosted at the European Investment Bank in Luxembourg, during European Microfinance Week.