The Zimbabwe Association of Microfinance Institutions (ZAMFI) hosted its highly anticipated annual winter school last week. This event brings together people passionate about financial inclusion and economic empowerment. Among the attendees was Petronella Dhitima, whose involvement was more than just a professional obligation; it was a chance to shed light on a crucial aspect of microfinance that often remains concealed behind data and figures.
Inclusive microfinance, with its noble mission of extending financial services to the underserved, is a realm where numbers assume a profound significance. Yet, they are more than just digits on a spreadsheet or statistics in a report; they weave the narrative of progress, impact, and transformation. As Petronella embarked on her presentation during the winter school, her words illuminated the path to understanding how these numbers transcend mere data, providing a deeper understanding of the microfinance sector’s pulse.
In a world where access to finance can spell the difference between stagnation and growth, the annual winter school proved to be a melting pot of insights and perspectives. Petronella’s discussion resonated with the very essence of the event, as she guided the audience through the maze of figures that define the microfinance landscape. Each digit, percentage, and graph tells a story. The current numbers show that MFIs’ contribution to the national pie of commercial loans is still tiny in comparison to what commercial banks contribute. Not that anyone would want to see competition between the entities because they are inherently different from MFIs by definition dealing with much smaller loans that take long to build sizable portfolios. MFIs were challenged to consider stronger deployment of digital to gain efficiencies and strengthen outreach.
The journey of microfinance is often marked by challenges and opportunities. The numbers, unveiled during the discussion, summarize the remarkable growth witnessed in Zimbabwe’s microfinance sector over the years. They contextualized the narrative of financial inclusion across the African continent and prompted a comparison between Zimbabwe and the dynamic microfinance landscape of Uganda, with a focus on other microfinance institutions that have been making significant strides in transforming lives through financial services. The comparison was meant to challenge and demonstrate to the sector that we have a long road ahead of us if we are to be a loud voice in the industry.