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Microfinance refers to the provision of small loans, savings, and other financial services to individuals or small businesses that typically lack access to traditional banking and related services, typically in developing countries. It is aimed towards poverty reduction by providing opportunities to economically marginalized individuals to become self-sufficient. These services are often provided by microfinance institutions (MFIs).


The phonetic pronunciation of the word “Microfinance” is: /mʌɪkroʊˈfaɪnæns/

Key Takeaways

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  1. Financial Inclusion: Microfinance allows marginalized sectors, mainly the poor and women in developing nations, to gain access to financial services. This includes not only credit but also savings, insurance and fund transfer.
  2. Empowers Entrepreneurs: By providing microloans, microfinance institutions help small-scale entrepreneurs who lack access to traditional banking services to start or expand their own businesses. This potentially leads to job creation and economic growth.
  3. Social Impact: Microfinance also aims to produce a positive societal impact by lifting people out of poverty, promoting gender equality and improving general welfare. However, it’s important to effectively manage the risk of over-indebtedness among borrowers.

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Microfinance is a crucial term in business and finance because it refers to the provision of financial services, including loans, savings accounts, insurance, and funds transfers, to individuals or small businesses that lack access to traditional banking services. Often, these individuals are from low-income groups or rural areas. Microfinance is significant because it promotes entrepreneurship and self-sufficiency by providing the financially marginalized population with the necessary financial resources to start small businesses. As a result, it stimulates economic growth, reduces poverty, and fosters a more inclusive financial system. Thus, microfinance plays an essential role in socioeconomic development and financial inclusion.


Microfinance is a financial service specifically designed to uplift low-income individuals or groups who traditionally lack access to banking and related services. It plays an instrumental role in boosting economic activity, promoting self-sufficiency, and reducing poverty in underserved communities. This concept serves as the first rung on the ladder towards financial independence for people outside the conventional banking system. Its purpose is to enable them to start or expand small businesses, manage sudden expenditures, and ultimately improve their standard of living. Primarily, microfinance is used for providing small loans, also known as microloans, to those unable to secure funding from traditional sources like banks. These loans have moderate-to-high interest rates due to the risk associated but generally do not require any collateral. Apart from lending, microfinance also encompasses other financial services like savings accounts, insurance, and financial counselling. It has shown significant potential in developing economies, giving rise to numerous microfinance institutions focused on empowering disadvantaged and marginalized groups, notably women, by providing them with financial resources and know-how.


1. Grameen Bank in Bangladesh: This is probably the most famous example of microfinance. Started by Muhammad Yunus, the bank provides small loans to the poor in Bangladesh, with a significant focus on women. The bank has been successful in helping the underprivileged start their own businesses and become financially independent.2. Kiva: Kiva is a non-profit organization based in San Francisco. It operates an online lending platform, facilitating loans between funders in developed countries and micro-entrepreneurs in the developing world. This platform allows individuals to lend as little as $25 to help others start or grow a small business, go to school, or afford necessary costs of living.3. Banco Compartamos in Mexico: This microfinance institution started as a non-profit in 1990, later becoming a commercial entity. It offers a range of financial services, such as micro-loans, insurance, and saving products, to underprivileged communities. Compartamos has grown to become one of the largest microfinance institutions in Latin America.

Frequently Asked Questions(FAQ)

What is microfinance?

Microfinance refers to the provision of financial services to low-income individuals or groups who traditionally lack access to banking and related services. This usually involves small loans (microloans), but it can also involve savings accounts, insurance, and other financial products.

Who benefits from microfinance?

Microfinance primarily benefits individuals and small businesses in developing countries. These are individuals who lack collateral, steady employment, or a verifiable credit history, making it difficult for them to access traditional banking services.

How does microfinance work?

Microfinance institutions (MFIs) provide small loans to those who wouldn’t typically qualify for traditional bank loans. These loans often have higher interest rates due to the elevated risk, but their purpose is to help borrowers establish credit and develop businesses.

What are microloans?

Microloans are small loans provided by MFIs to individuals, typically used to foster entrepreneurship and business growth in developing countries.

Is microfinance the same as microcredit?

While the two terms are often used interchangeably, microfinance is broader than microcredit. Microcredit refers specifically to small loans, while microfinance encompasses a range of financial products such as savings accounts, insurance, and money transfers.

What is the impact of microfinance on poverty?

Microfinance can help alleviate poverty by providing the poor with the financial resources to establish and grow their own businesses. This increases income generation, leading to an improved standard of living.

What are the risks associated with microfinance?

Risks include over-indebtedness if borrowers take on more debt than they can handle, and defaults can be higher due to the client base’s unstable income. Additionally, the impact and suitability of microfinance as a poverty reduction tool have been debated.

How can I get involved or invest in microfinance?

Some MFIs or platforms allow individuals and institutions to provide capital for microloans. Doing your own due diligence and consulting with a financial advisor is a good first step if you’re interested in becoming involved in microfinance.

Related Finance Terms

  • Microcredit
  • Microlending
  • Financial inclusion
  • Microenterprise
  • Micro-savings

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