Here’s the story of Noraisa Decampong, one of thousands of people displaced from Marawi City, Southern Philippines, in 2017. Five years on and with access to microfinance services, Noraisa is ready to rebuild her life.
Microfinance institutions (MFIs) bridge financing gaps for those, like Noraisa, who have limited or no access to traditional financial services.
In 2018, ADB partnered with ASA Philippines Foundation, one of the largest MFIs in the Philippines, to launch a $30 million loan facility. The partnership helped ASA expand its operation and provide wider access to finance for women borrowers from poor communities in lagging and conflict-impacted provinces in the Philippines, including Marawi.
With payment arrangements tailored for borrowers during a crisis, the project demonstrates how microfinance can be an avenue for disaster relief, and for empowering women to rebuild their lives after a crisis. ASA's business model also shows the commercial sustainability of microfinance and attracts private capital to this sector.
Microfinance: Empowering Women to Rebuild Lives After Crisis
Microfinance institutions (MFIs) play an important role for those who cannot access traditional financial services.
MFIs empower women to engage in income-generating activities that strengthen their decision-making power.
Through a $30 million loan facility, ADB supports ASA Philippines Foundation— one of the largest MFIs in the Philippines—in its efforts to improve access to finance of women borrowers and microentrepreneurs across the country.
Mr. Anshukant Taneja, ADB Principal Investment Specialist, says “ADB is very proud of this partnership with ASA Philippines. Their approach to microfinance, despite coming from a commercial perspective, is a very good mix of both the development needs of their clients as well as ensuring that they run a financially sustainable business model. Unlike other MFIs, ASA is equally divided through all the three main areas of the Philippines.
ASA Philippines Foundation has 70% of its 1,683 branches in areas that are underserved by traditional banks.
In Marawi City, Southern Philippines, Noraisa Decampong was one of those displaced by local conflict in 2017. In 2018, she returned to Marawi and started small businesses that helped bring back important goods and services to the city.
A microentrepreneur and ASA Philippines beneficiary, Ms. Decampong shares: “I own a motor parts supply store, a sari-sari store and I make construction blocks. We were in the evacuation center for a long time because Marawi was taken over by armed men. When we came back from evacuation, everything was gone. I only started again because ASA offered me capital.”
Mr. Tanjea adds, “ASA is the first entity to react whenever there's a national calamity or a disaster in any of the areas that they cover. This is a very different approach compared to how traditional MFIs look at their role with borrowers because they look at income-generating activities. And in a situation of distress in the environment, they tend to withdraw from there. Unlike ASA which at least steps up its engagement in this situation. That's something that ADB has also learned that microfinance by itself can be a very important vehicle for disaster relief.”
At the start of COVID-19 lockdowns in 2020, over 60% of microenterprises stopped operations and had zero transactions.
The ADB assistance allowed ASA Philippines to extend interest-free Qard Hassan loans to Marawi beneficiaries.
Mr. Kamrul Tarafder, President and CEO of ASA Philippines, says: “We devised different strategies. There are so many adjustments (today) we have made so far, and if you look at the performance of ASA Philippines this year (2021), we already recovered from the losses of last year (2020). So we are actually on the way to recovery from the pandemic, together with the support we are receiving from all our creditors, particularly the ADB support.”
Ms. Decampong adds: “Despite everything, I am grateful, especially to ASA. They gave us a payment holiday. When things started getting back to normal, we started paying back again. Because of ASA, our business was continuous.”
With ADB’s assistance, ASA Philippines added 407,000 new women borrowers from 2008 to 2021 and is on track to achieve its target of 2 million borrowers by 2024.
ADB partners are an important part of the fight for a prosperous, inclusive, resilient, and sustainable Asia and Pacific region.