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MICROCAPITAL BRIEF: Panelists at Toronto International Microfinance Summit 2011 Discuss Interest Rate Pricing, Technological Solutions, Commercial and Philanthropic Funding

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In a presentation at the recent Toronto International Microfinance Summit, panelists weighed in on a range of current topics in the microfinance sector, including profitability, the effect of commercial investment and advances in technology. Speakers included the following: Vidar Jorgensen, president of Grameen America; Joyce Lehman, program officer at the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation; Tanjina Mirza, vice president, international programs at Plan Canada; Phil Smith, author of “A Billion Bootstraps”; and Damian von Stauffenberg, president and founder of MicroRate.

Mr Jorgensen and Mr Smith both emphasized the need for competition as a tonic against high interest rates, indicating that anyone who takes offence with “usurious” lending rates should enter the market with the goal of driving prices down. Other panelists advised that MFIs should continue to focus on cost containment, while most of the speakers warned against unrestrained growth such as occurred in India over the last few years.

Ms Lehman was a keen proponent of “technology-enabled financial inclusion,” wherein microfinance practitioners should take advantage of developments in the mobile banking sector. “Cash is the enemy,” said Ms Lehman, as she proceeded to describe a future where connectivity and identity verification were no longer problematic, and electronic platforms were the modus operandi.

On the issue of profitability and sustainability, Mr von Stauffenberg proclaimed that...

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The preceding article is from one of our external contributors. It does not represent the opinion of Benzinga and has not been edited.

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