Citi Foundation launches 11.2 million dollars International Microfinance Program

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Mumbai, Mar 20 (ANI/Business Wire India): The Citi Foundation today announced a three-year US 11.2 million dollars international grant program to advance the integration of micro-finance into the mainstream economies of developing countries.

The Citi Network Strengthening Program will increase the ability of 12 major micro-finance networks and their members to develop products and services that meet the needs of their clients.

In addition, the program aims to enhance the industry's infrastructure, introduce higher standards of management and governance, and promote the vital role of micro-finance in providing the poor with access to financial services.

In India, Sa-Dhan, a common platform representing multiple models and approaches for micro-finance, has been selected for receiving this Citi Foundation support. Sa-Dhan will use the funding to develop and implement strategic business plans that focus on expanding ability to provide clients with the products and services they need, enhance their role as advocates for the micro-finance industry, develop industry infrastructure that sets standards and promotes best practices to the field, and engage in peer learning that stimulates innovation throughout the sector

The micro-finance sector in India is on a tremendous growth path that is witnessing increased transformation of services from both not for profit and for profit organisations. Further evolution of the sector will be defined by the micro-finance Act and the ability of the organizations to suitably adapt to this act. Accordingly, Sa-Dhan will undertake initiatives to raise awareness of the implications of the act in the Indian micro-finance sector. These include:

-- Dissemination of Rules and Regulation and Management of Balance sheet under existing and future legislation

-- Regulatory Compliance Assistance

-- Developing Mechanism of Compliance of "Code of Conduct" with Members

-- Upgrading Audit, MIS Skills, Systems and Enhancing Reporting Disciplines

-- Enhancing Membership Services

-- Improving Sustainability of the Network.

Mathew Titus, Executive Director, Sa-Dhan said, "We are pleased to have been successfully selected to participate under the Citi's Network Strengthening program, in a global initiative involving 12 networks. We hope that mutual exchange and participation would result in enhancing participating networks' ability to engage effectively with all stakeholders towards strengthening and expanding the micro-finance sector in each country. Sa-Dhan is committed to ensuring and enhancing participation from all members on a common platform to synthesize and synergize viewpoints of all relevant stakeholders and consistently working on the important themes of policy advocacy, standards and capacity building."

This initiative from Citi Foundation further adds to a decade of support provided to NGO partners for their programmes and to help them enhance capacity.

Citi India's Community Support Program was launched in 1997 to focus on capacity building of Non-Government Organizations (NGOs) who were working to provide micro credit to empower under-privileged urban women through access to capital for income generation. Over the last decade (1997-2007), Citi India has provided funds in excess of 10 million dollars to its NGO partners.

Sanjay Nayar, CEO, Citi India, said, "We are pleased to expand our partnership with Sa-Dhan at what we believe is a critical juncture for the micro-finance industry in India. Micro-finance has won tremendous acclaim as a tool for poverty reduction in recent years, but still faces numerous challenges. This initiative will help the industry to achieve the strength and scale required to substantially expand the reach of micro-finance and facilitate financial inclusion."

Across Asia Pacific, this program is being run in partnership with the Banking With The Poor Network (BWTP), the Foundation for Development Cooperation (FDC), and the program's global partner, the SEEP Network. It will expand Citi Foundation's long-standing support of the micro-finance industry in the region through grants for capital, training and technical assistance. Over the past ten years, the Citi Foundation has committed more than US17 million dollars in funding for micro-finance-related programs in Asia.

The regions and countries participating in the Citi Network Strengthening Program are: China, India, Philippines; Central America, Ecuador, Mexico; Central and Eastern Europe and the Newly Independent States, Russia, Pakistan, and the Middle East.

The Citi Network Strengthening Program will include:

-- A comprehensive assessment of the network's capacity to meet the needs of its members;

-- An in-depth report on the micro-finance industry in the respective country or region;

-- Strategic, business and implementation plans which may include embracing new technologies, advocating for interest rate liberalization, establishment of ratings agencies and credit bureaus, creating local debt and equity ratings funds that raise domestic capital, and developing links between the commercial finance and micro-finance sectors.

To date, the Citi Foundation has contributed nearly US million in funding to support 250 micro-finance institutions, micro-finance networks and micro-enterprise programs in 55 countries.

Other key initiatives in Asia this year include the Asia Micro-finance Forum to be held in Hanoi, Vietnam on August 26-29, 2008 in partnership with FDC and the Banking With The Poor Network.

In addition, Citi Micro-finance Group, a business unit, supports the micro-finance sector through commercial activities that build scale, lower costs and introduce new products. Citi Micro-finance Group currently has business relationships with more than 70 micro-finance institutions in over 35 countries in Asia, Latin America, Africa, Eastern Europe and the Middle East, as well as global micro-finance networks, specialized fund managers, and investors.

ANI

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