Alex Counts is the President and CEO of Grameen Foundation.
Grameen Foundation’s recent trip to Kenya was a watershed event. Our founding director Professor Muhammad Yunus joined us at our Board meeting, held for the very first time in Africa. In addition, and members of our Board and our staff participated in the Africa-Middle East Regional Microcredit Summit, the largest microfinance convening in Africa’s history. Several of us presented Grameen Foundation’s work to the assembled delegates at some of the event’s sessions. Staff members Camilla Nestor, George Conard, and Julia Assaad (of our joint venture Grameen-Jameel Pan Arab Microfinance) presented to scores of delegates eager to learn from our experts. Most of the presenters, however, were African microfinance leaders including several who are long-standing partners of ours.
I was pleased to kick off the third day of the summit by addressing a plenary session moderated by Dr. Helene Gayles, CEO of CARE International. During the session, I spoke about microfinance as a platform for improving the health and well-being of Africa’s poor and poorest families. Although we spent 45 minutes on questions from the attendees, I was still left with a huge pile of unanswered written questions after the session ended! The 800 delegates who attended the session seemed hungry for information on making microfinance a more effective tool for empowerment.
The most memorable part of the trip was our visit to Kenya Entrepreneurship Empowerment Foundation (KEEF), a Kenyan microfinance institution that is benefitting from, and helping to further refine, some of our signature initiatives designed to advance microfinance in Africa. They are one of the earliest adopters of our Mifos technology platform that is designed to dramatically increase the efficiency and transparency of microfinance. They are also using the Progress out of Poverty IndexTM, our industry-leading tool that measures poverty reduction outcomes. KEEF is the first MFI globally to pilot our mobile money concept to make the transfer of loan monies and repayments much easier and more secure for clients.
It was clear to all of us who participated in the field trip how much KEEF and its clients are benefitting from these programs and the important role our staff, volunteers, and donors are playing in making this powerful alliance possible.