The International Finance Corporation (IFC) on Thursday announced a partnership with Lift Above Poverty Organization (LAPO) Microfinance Bank to help expand banking services to low-income residents across the sub-Saharan Africa region. The partnership will also help LAPO achieve the expansion plans of its microfinance business to some of Africa’s least developed economies and fragile states.
Under the business agreement, the international financial institution (IFC) will carry out market analysis of several countries in Africa including the fragile states and in turn, offer advisory support to LAPO in the microfinance institution’s bid to expand its business beyond the shores of Nigeria and Sierra Leone where it operates with an average of 500 branches, serving over 800,000 customers.
As indicated by LAPO in its planned expansion strategy, the partnership will help bolster financial inclusion and increase lending to individuals and micro and small businesses within the region and stimulate economic growth. The vision is specifically targeted at women borrowers, low-income earners and those within the rural areas.
Speaking on the said partnership, Dr Godwin Ehigiamusoe, Founder and Chief Executive Officer, LAPO, said: “Through IFC’s advisory support, we will expand our capacity to build greater financial inclusion among a rural, low-income client base in sub-Saharan Africa. IFC’s advisory will also help us deepen our efforts to reach more women-owned micro-enterprises, which currently represent about 70 per cent of clients in our existing microfinance operations.
Further lending voice to the initiative and its intentions for the sub-Saharan African region, Kevin Njiraini, IFC’s Regional Director, Southern Africa and Nigeria, stressed that: “IFC’s support to LAPO is part of our commitment to strengthen economic development in sub-Saharan Africa, support micro-enterprises, and reduce poverty. This project marks a significant milestone in the development of microfinance in Africa, particularly as countries continue to suffer the severe effects of the COVID-19 pandemic.”
Also, Emmanuel Nyirinkindi, IFC’s Director for Transaction Advisory Services, revealed that “LAPO’s existing microfinance businesses target women and the financially excluded. IFC’s support to LAPO will extend to more women in the region and contribute to the development of economic opportunities.”
What this means is that this initiative will pave access to loan accessibility and other banking services for the individuals and businesses domiciled in these regions due to the underdevelopment of their domestic financial sectors.