RBAP-MABS shares rural bank microfinance experiences in China

(Top) First day’s conference on microfinance with numerous MFIs in attendance.

First day’s conference on microfinance with numerous MFIs in attendance.

The USAID-supported RBAP-MABS Program joined global microfinance practitioners at the International Microfinance Conference held on March 19-21 in Nanjing City, Jiangsu, China. Focused on sharing international best practices and global trends in microfinance to mostly Chinese microfinance institutions (MFIs), the conference was supported by the International Labour Organization (ILO), Nanjing University of Finance & Economics (NUFE), and the Jiangsu Provincial Government.

On the first day of the event, MABS Luzon Regional Manager Jove Tapiador discussed the Philippine experience on microfinance innovations with the Chinese audience. He shared the experiences and lessons learned by the Philippine rural banks in offering financial products and services to their microfinance clients in the countryside. More specifically, he presented how micro-credit, housing microfinance, micro-agri loans, micro-insurance and mobile phone banking services are applied for the benefit of low-income households.

The participants were mostly microfinance practitioners, particularly officers of various MFIs. There were also a number of teachers and students from NUFE. After the presentation, more than thirty minutes was spent on answering questions related to bank operations, regulations that govern rural banks, and profitability of microfinance operations of rural banks in the Philippines. Members of the audience compared the practices of Philippine MFIs, particularly rural banks, to those of China.

On the second day, Mr. Tapiador discussed the growth of mobile phone industry and the use of mobile money platforms to support mobile phone banking services in the Philippines. It highlighted the role that rural banks play in establishing and supporting the mobile money ecosystem focused on rural areas and how they work with various players in the value chain to facilitate mobile commerce activities that especially support microenterprises and low-income households.

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On the last day of the conference, a group exercise was conducted by ILO among the MFIs present to identify the policy and industry issues that need to be addressed in China. The MFIs presented their concerns such as the need for a clear regulatory framework, more relaxed rules on expansion and interest rates, and greater technical support for their operations. Many of the participants were candid in discussing the gaps in their industry and how the government can provide policy support.

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Overall, the event was a resounding success especially since it brought together all the major microfinance participants in the province for the first time.  With examples like the work of RBAP, USAID, and its close working relationship with various private sector partners and regulators in the Philippines as one of the models of successful collaboration, the event provided not only a good overview about the state of microfinance in China, but also on how the industry players can work together around common issues as a group for the first time.