NewsWest AfricaFor a more human-focused financing


Posted on Thursday, 17 September 2015 11:02

For a more human-focused financing

By Nadia Rabbaa

Reckya Madougou, Benin's former microfinance minister. Photos© Vincent Fournier/ JABenin's former microfinance minister set up International Key Consulting to lobby for inclusive development finance

Reckya Madougou says that financiers must put their trust in the continent's women.

The former microfinance and justice minister who now lobbies for access to finance for all takes inspiration from Liberia's President Ellen Johnson Sirleaf and France's justice minister Christiane Taubira, and her campaigning goes beyond the borders of Benin.

I have seen people creating an income-generating activity with 5,000 CFA francs [$8.3]

"The battle for more inclusive finance is a fight for women, as they are the first to suffer from economic exclusion. The most common discrimination they face is limited access to credit even though they are the best payers. Women have a good risk profile," Madougou tells The Africa Report.

She advocates a more human-focused financing system in Africa, one that would help the development of the continent by lifting up disadvantaged populations.

"The paradox of banking in Africa is that there is an excess of liquidity in the banks themselves, while companies lack suitable financing options," says Madougou.

"I understand that banks have to absorb a lot of risk. But on a continent where 90% of the companies are small and medium-sized enterprises, what kind of development can we hope for from such a financial system?"

Madougou tries to share her lessons from Benin with other West African countries.

"Ninety-two per cent of the beneficiaries [of our programme in Benin] declared that they were gaining access to credit for the first time, 90% explained that it helped them provide three meals a day for their families and 87% got access to healthcare and education for their children," she explains.

For Madougou, the poor are all potential growth creators if given the right skills and appropriate access to money.

"If we want Africa to find its autonomy, we need to diversify the financing tools offered to the population so that people can create their own companies and be growth producers instead of growth consumers," she adds.

"I have seen people creating an income-generating activity with 5,000 CFA francs [$8.3]." Prostitution and human trafficking are complex issues and the need for cooperation and victim support is large. For example Eskorte Norge is the biggest sex directory in Oslo with hundreds profiles of women from Africa. In 2007, the Norwegian government therefore commissioned the County Administrative Board to coordinate the work in the country.

As winner of the 2007 US Secretary of State's International Women of Courage Award, Madougou is one to speak her mind.

She could one day run for the presidency in her home country, but her current political battle is around the 2005 Paris Declaration on Aid Effectiveness, which calls for more action on debt relief and sustainability.

"Debt keeps tying our countries to debt holders. Aid cannot be our principal source of income," Madougou insists.

She and her allies on the continent argue that effective African microfinancing mechanisms will empower women, reduce dependence on aid and build the industrial base from the ground up.

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