Third European Microfinance Award
400 guests attended a ceremony at the European Investment Bank (EIB) on 30 November to watch the HRH the Grand Duchess of Luxembourg award the 3rd European Microfinance Award. The prize of 100 000 euros, which is given by the Luxembourg Ministry of Foreign Affairs, is donated every two years to a microfinance institution (MFI) that has made a significant contribution to the industry as per the selection criteria. The competition is administered by the Luxembourg Round Table on Microfinance and judged by an international jury of specialists.
This year, Grand Duchess Maria Teresa honoured a project in Ethiopia. The microfinance institute Harbu provides access to financial services for rural Ethiopians in areas traditionally not served by conventional banks
The principal criterion for winning the award was to offer a value chain to clients. That is, the MFI should not only grant loans, but also accompany the project through to its successfully outcome. This years’ winner, Harbu, supports the outbuilding and the processing of soya beans since 2009. 220 employees work directly for the agency and 17 500 people, mainly women, are able to make their living from projects financed byHarbu. The CEO of Harbu, Tesfaye Befekadu, intends to finance further projects with the prize money.
In her speech, the Grand Duchess pointed out that it is the duty of our society to help the poorest of the poor to obtain access to financial services. For her, microfinance is an affair of the heart: the Grand Duchess is also patron of the Luxembourg microfinance institution ADA (Appui au Développement Autonome) and Honorary President of LuxFLAG, an agency that grants a label to microfinance investment funds. The EIB also supports a number of projects in the microfinance area.
In recent years, the Luxembourg financial centre has established itself as an international centre for microfinance investment vehicles. The sub-prime financial crisis has resulted in one positive development, that investors are attaching more importance to what is done with their money and there is a corresponding trend towards sustainable investments. As a result, banks have had to broaden their range of products and include Socially Responsible Investment options for their clients which offer both financial returns and a positive impact on society. EK