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The working papers are topical researches published by AMFIU
The world population comprises over 600 million people with disabilities having permanent or substantial functional limitations caused by physical, cognitive and sensory impairments that limit their participation in mainstream activities.
The majority of these people live in developing countries. The World Bank predicts that this population is likely to increase because of increased ageing and violent conflict both of which are highly correlated with disability.
According to the Uganda population and Housing Census report 2002, 4 out of every 25 persons in Uganda are persons with disabilities.
Consumer protection is part of the global effort of promoting transparency in financial service delivery. There are efforts in many countries – both high- and low-income – to improve transparency of various segments of the financial sector. This working paper looks at the financial segments of the financial sector.
The international debate in microfinance has had several strides in terms of development as regards the breadth and depth with various initiatives around transparency in the sector. The debate on financial protection is particularly crucial because it is linked to the (declared) goal of poverty alleviation e.g. PEAP for the Government of Uganda.
Transparency in financial service delivery involves consumer protection, consumer education (financial literacy) and consumer advocacy. Consumer protection ensures that consumers receive information that will allow them to make informed decision, make choices and are not subject to unfair and deceptive practices have access to recourse mechanisms to resolve disputes when transactions go awry, and are able to maintain privacy of their personal information.
Financial literacy (which to a greater extent is part of consumer protection) gives consumers the skills to understand and evaluate the information they receive. Together consumer protection and financial literacy set clear rules of engagement between financial firms and their retail customers — and help narrow the knowledge gap between consumers and the financial institutions.
After every two years, AMFIU publishes a microfinance Directory in which its members are featured. The information published comprises of contacts and business information for the member MFIs of AMFIU.
The business information includes the loan and savings portfolio, outreach information in terms of numbers and branches, information on products offered by the MFIs and gender aspects of the businesses.
A section of associates is also usually included showing their contacts and services they provide. This working paper is meant to analyse the information that was collected and published in the 4th Edition of the MFI directory early this year.
This paper discusses the results of a pilot project in Uganda where NUDIPU, the umbrella organisation for people with disabilities has joined forces with the Association of Microfinance institutions of Uganda, AMFIU to provide persons with disabilities access to mainstream microfinance services. The Norwegian Association of Disabled (NAD) has provided technical and financial support to the project. Already several lessons have been learnt from the pilot:
1) entrepreneurs with disabilities are an untapped market opportunity for MFIs,
2) to influence MFIs, it is important to understand their business model and team up with key actors from the industry,
3) persons with disabilities are often misinformed about MFIs’ terms and services and they don’t know how to tap these opportunities.
Gradually, a change in attitudes both in MFIs as in persons with disabilities and DPOs is observed. All MFIs participating in the project now report of an increase in the number of clients with disabilities served.
The rapid growth in the microfinance industry of Uganda offers opportunities to providers and consumers, but it also poses new challenges. On one hand, consumers are lacking information and good money management skills and thus are constrained in their ability to make informed choices. On the other hand, most MFIs have a capacity gap to direct the consumers on how best to access their services and to develop/deliver market-driven products respectively.
Transparency has been prevalent in literally every discussion on Microfinance in Uganda in the recent years. Yet, there is no other approach that has addressed it as directly and thoroughly as the Consumer Financial Education programme that AMFIU runs supported by European Union and DFID/FSDU. Consumer Financial Education is one of the three pillars of AMFIU transparency programme, the others being performance monitoring and institutionalized product and pricing comparisons.
The performance monitoring system that is in the process of technical establishment will provide mainly financial ratios. Other elements of performance monitoring of both MFIs and consumers are complaint handling and credit reference, which are yet to be conceptualized under the AMFIU transparency programme. A national database on Microfinance Products and publishing total costs (interest rates and fees) will be addressed in 2008/9.
The purpose of this paper is to define transparency from the perspective of the microfinance industry and highlight the reasons why a growing industry needs to promote transparency in order to realize objectives of a market driven industry, knowledge sharing, making a choice and promoting rights and responsibilities. In addition the paper explains the reasons for institutionalizing transparency in the microfinance industry as well as the various efforts by the key players in its promotion.