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IDB awards microenterprise development prizes

SANTO DOMINGO, Dominican Republic - The Inter-American Development Bank Thursday awarded its annual prizes for institutions and leaders that excel in their efforts to support microenterprises, a key factor for economic and social progress in Latin America and the Caribbean.

Dominican President Hipolito Mejia, Dominican Vice-president Milagros Ortiz Bosch, Peruvian Vice-president Raul Diez Canseco and Dominican Central Bank Governor Francisco Guerrero Prats took part in the ceremony, which was held as part of the Nov. 14-16 IV Inter-American Forum on Microenterprise.

After observing a minute of silence in memory of the victims of Monday’s aviation accident in New York, in which 175 Dominicans died, IDB President Enrique V. Iglesias highlighted the achievements of the winners of the Inter-American Awards for Microenterprise Development, which this year were awarded to institutions from Bolivia, Paraguay and the Dominican Republic and two champions of social development from Trinidad & Tobago.

"These are exemplary institutions that provide financial and non financial business development services to some of the most disadvantaged groups in their countries. Besides being highly efficient, productive and profitable, they have attained a remarkable social impact among the region’s microenterprises, a particularly important achievement in these trying times," Iglesias said in his speech.

"Your leadership and your efforts help relieve poverty, as well as sustain self-employed workers and improve the living standards for people in the lowest income levels," he added.

Microenterprises, tiny businesses with less than 10 workers, provide jobs for nearly half of Latin America’s workforce. Over 150 million people, and particularly women and youths in poor communities, earn their living or bolster their families’ incomes through these businesses.

The IDB, which has supported microfinance for over two decades in this region, created the microenterprise development awards in 1999. Among this year’s winners were a pioneering Bolivian microfinance institution that has expanded its operations abroad, a Dominican nonprofit institution that grants loans to thousands of poor women and a Paraguayan foundation that provides innovative business development services to indigenous communities.

The award for social entrepreneurship was won by a nun and a priest who run one of the Caribbean’s most successful non governmental organizations in the fields of child care, teenage job-training and community development.

Award Winning Institutions and Individuals

Fondo Financiero Privado FIE S.A. FIE, a leading Bolivian microfinance company, won the Award for Excellence in Microfinance for Regulated Institutions for its innovations in client services as well as for its commendable financial performance in a highly competitive market beset by harsh economic conditions. Earlier this year FIE opened a branch in Buenos Aires to cater to a huge potential market of Bolivian migrant workers and microentrepreneurs living in the Argentine capital. One of its goals is to harness the massive flows of remittances to support its microlending operations.

 

Asociacion Dominicana para el Desarrollo de la Mujer. ADOPEM, the Dominican Association for Women’s Development, garnered the Award for Excellence in Microfinance for Non Regulated Institutions. Since it was founded 19 years ago, ADOPEM has become a leader in microlending in the Dominican Republic. It serves some 20,000 clients, of which 94 percent are low-income women.

Fundacion Indigena para el Desarrollo Agropecuario. FIDA, Paraguay’s Indigenous Foundation for Agricultural Development, won the Award for Excellence in Business Development Services for its strong management capabilities, its efforts to provide self-sustaining services, its interest in environmental conservation and the high quality and originality of the technical assistance it offers to its beneficiaries, 11 communities of indigenous small farmers in the Chaco Central, a poor, isolated region in western Paraguay.

 

Ruth Montrichard and Gerard Pantin. Sister Montrichard and Father Pantin, winners of the Award for Excellence in Social Entrepreneurship, run SERVOL (Service Volunteered for All), a nongovernmental organization based in Trinidad & Tobago. Father Pantin founded SERVOL in 1970 to help people in his nation’s poorest communities. Under the leadership of its founder and Sister Montrichard, its executive director, SERVOL provides day care services through a network of crèches for thousands of Trinidadian infants, as well as education, job training and computer literacy programs for teenagers. Guided by an integral approach to human development, Pantin and Montrichard also started parenting, hygiene and civics classes for its adolescent beneficiaries. A SERVOL affiliate grants microloans to alumni of its job internship program to help them open small shops and businesses and gives them training in basic management skills and advice on production and marketing techniques.

In the category for regulated microfinance institutions, Caja Municipal de Ahorro y Credito de Arequipa (CMAC-Arequipa) of Peru and Banco Solidario of Ecuador won honorable mentions in recognition of their leadership and their capacity for innovation. CMAC-Arequipa managed to boost its client base, its deposits and its profitability at the same time as it put nearly all its staff through training courses and implemented a credit risk evaluation system. Banco Solidario has tailored its products to fit the needs of its diverse clientele, developing a remittances service that links Ecuador with its migrant workers in Spain.

Fundacion para la Vivienda Cooperativa - Mexico was awarded an honorable mention in the category for nonregulated microfinance institutions. This affiliate of the Cooperative Housing Foundation, a U.S. NGO with a distinguished record in promoting affordable housing in several countries around the world, has excelled in Mexico’s market for housing microloans by focusing on workers of the maquila industry.

Also, a posthumous award was granted to Camilo Lluberes Henriquez, a microfinance pioneer from the Dominican Republic. An economist, businessman and legislator with a lifelong commitment to fighting poverty, Lluberes founded ADEMI (Association for the Development of Microenterprises), a nonprofit NGO, in 1983. In 1998 ADEMI spawned Banco de Desarrollo ADEMI S.A., a regulated microfinance institution that serves customers and communities in poor rural and urban areas.

IV Inter-American Forum on Microenterprise

The IDB views microenterprise as a fundamental tool for poverty reduction, job creation and economic growth, as well as for improving income distribution, promoting entrepreneurship and strengthening civil society. Since 1978 it has invested over $800 million in more than 500 microenterprise-related projects in Latin America and the Caribbean.

The IDB’s Micro, Small and Medium Enterprise Division organizes these forums every year to disseminate best practices, lessons learned and the results of its investigation in the field of microenterprise. The meetings bring together hundreds of experts from around the world to discuss the most successful methods and tools for promoting microfinance and business development services tailored for small businesses.

This year’s forum, which is being hosted by the Central Bank of the Dominican Republic, features presentations by delegates from NGOs, commercial banks, credit unions, cooperatives, community associations, consulting firms, philanthropic foundations, investment funds, bilateral and multilateral institutions and government agencies that support microenterprise development.

Among other issues, panels cover the latest trends in training for microentrepreneurs, fair trade as a tool for opening new markets for micro and small businesses, the promotion of entrepreneurship among youth, microentrepreneurial participation in environmental conservation, and the use of new technologies to expand microfinance.