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IDB awards annual prizes for microenterprise development

CARTAGENA DE INDIAS, Colombia – The Inter-American Development Bank awarded its annual prizes for microenterprise development to a leading Colombian foundation, a rural credit and education organization in Bolivia, a Peruvian credit union and a Paraguayan social entrepreneur.

Colombia’s Fundación Mario Santo Domingo received the award for its business development services for microentrepreneurs. Bolivia’s CRECER deserved the prize for non regulated microfinance institutions while Peru’s CMAC Huancayo won the prize for regulated microfinance institutions. Martin Burt, general director of the Paraguayan Foundation for Cooperation and Development, obtained the IDB’s award for social entrepreneur of the year.

Colombian President Alvaro Uribe and IDB President Enrique V. Iglesias handed the awards in a ceremony held last Thursday during the 7th Inter-American Microenterprise Forum, which took place in Cartagena de Indias, September 8-10.

The IDB’s prizes recognize the outstanding achievements and innovations of individuals and institutions that support microenterprise and community development in Latin America and the Caribbean. Microenterprises generate nearly half the jobs in this region and provide incomes for tens of millions of families.

Fundación Mario Santo Domingo, a philanthropic institution founded over four decades ago by one of Colombia’s leading businessmen, won the IDB’s prize for institutions that provide business development services for microentrepreneurs. Under the foundation’s Income Generation Program, nearly 300,000 people have received technical training in business management, organization and marketing, as well as technology and knowledge transfers.

The foundation’s president, Pablo Obregon Santo Domingo, thanked the institution’s staff and trainers for their dedication to their clients, who “only need a small help to get ahead and become examples for their families, their communities and their country”.

The IDB prize for a non-regulated microfinance institution was won by CRECER of Bolivia, a non-profit organization affiliated with the NGO Freedom from Hunger, which promotes a strategy of combining credit with education for rural women. CRECER has become the leading practitioner of village banking in Bolivia, where it has given tens of thousands of poor women access to small loans and practical information on nutrition, health and business management.

Nathan Robison, chairman of CRECER’s assembly of members, attributed his organization’s success to the hard work of its credit officers, who go over mountains and across jungles to serve their clients.

A Peruvian credit union, Caja Municipal de Ahorro y Crédito de Huancayo, won the IDB’s prize for regulated microfinance institutions. CMAC Huancayo excels in its ability to offer clients new services and products on favorable and flexible terms, avoiding excessive costs and red tape.

CMAC Huancayo Manager Henri Camayo Montalván accepted the prize in name of the institution’s staff and board of directors. He added that the credit union plans to expand towards Lima, doubling or even tripling their client base.

This year’s social entrepreneurship prize, which recognizes individuals who combine a strong social commitment with sound business practices to promote microenterprise and community development, went to Martin Burt, who has devoted nearly two decades to sustainable development by fostering entrepreneurship in Paraguay.

In his acceptance speech Burt, a member of ACCION International’s network, said: “an investment in microenterprise is an investment in citizenship, it’s an effort to help people change from being only inhabitants of our countries into citizens with full rights and responsibilities”.

During the ceremony, President Uribe bestowed on President Iglesias Colombia's National Order of Merit, Grand Cross, in recognition of his long international career and his contributions to development in Colombia and the rest of Latin America and the Caribbean.

The Microenterprise Forum organized by the IDB brought together more than 1,300 participants, among them delegates from international aid and development agencies, NGOs, foundations, social investment funds, microfinance institutions, credit unions, banks, consulting firms, universities, research centers and government agencies.