All Party Parliamentary Group on Microfinance

Events and Meetings

The APPG hosts regular meetings for Parliamentarians and interested parties to discuss pertinent issues.

A selection of past meetings and events are highlighted below:

'Women and Microfinance: Harnessing Financial Inclusion for Women's Economic Empowerment"'

Wednesday 20th March, 6:30-8:30pm

In collaboration with the UK Chapter of Women Advancing Microfinance, the APPG on Microfinance hosted a panel discussion in Parliament on the topic of women's financial inclusion and innovative strategies for bringing appropriate financial services to female clients.

Held in the Boothroyd Room, named for the first female Speaker of the House of Commons, the event welcomed individuals from the world of microfinance, investors and the civil service as well as other interested parties, and included addresses from Annette Brooke MP OBE, who chaired the session, Dr Susan Johnson of the University of Bath, Jaymini Ichharam of Opportunity International UK and Nicole Stubbs of First Access.

Opening the presentations, Annette Brooke MP welcomed the government's move, announced earlier in the day as part of the budget statement, that the UK would be increasing its funding for official development assistance to 0.7% of GNI. She also spoke of some of her own experiences of microfinance and women microentrepreneurs, relating how she had been inspired by visits to microfinance programmes in Malawi and other countries. She noted, however, that despite the promise of microfinance and financial inclusion, it remains important to keep a critical eye on claims amde by proponents, so that impact can be understood and improved.

Dr Susan Johnson spoke next, outlining some of the obstacles faced by women in developing countries who want to engage with microfinance and business. Women often lack control over household assets and even their own labour, and are subject to specific social and biological risks that combine to prevent their empowerment in many situations. For this reason, it is important that inclusive financial products are designed specifically with women in mind.

Dr Johnson's presentation was followed by an address from Jaymini Ichharam of Opportunity International, one of the world's leading microfinance networks. Speaking about some of the innovative strategies employed by Opportunity in Jaymini's home country of Malawi, she described how they have developed biometric ATMs and portable mini-banks in vans that have reduced costs to women of accessing financial services and protected their capital against appropriation by male relatives. Jaymini also spoke about the financial capability training that Opportunity offers its clients, and how spouses are encouraged to attend some sessions in order to educate them and redress some gender issues.

Closing the presentations, Nicole Stubbs of First Access spoke about that company's innovative credit referencing product, which makes use of records relating to mobile phone use and expenditure to evaluate the creditworthiness of potential microcredit clients. As a service provider rather than an institution offering credit itself, First Access aims to reduce the transaction costs associated with evaluating loan applications in locations without credit bureaux, reducing staff time costs and hopefully freeing up more capital for loans and other services. This initiative is in its early stages, but preliminary results from Tanzania indicate that the availability of such a service could enable cost reductions as high as 12% on initial loan appraisals, and it could also have positive theoretical impacts on overindebtedness and other problems.

Stephen Lloyd MP started a question and answer session following the presentations, and an interesting debate ensued as audience members also questioned the panellists and each other.


'Celebrating 10 Years of Microfinance in Parliament and Looking Forward to Discuss How Microfinance Can Help to Achieve Progress on Post-2015 Development Goals'

Wednesday 31st October, 4-6pm

In 2002, Annette Brooke MP founded the APPG on Microfinance to promote microfinance in parliament and foster discussion about how the UK's support for international microfinance could be improved. On October 31st 2012, the APPG welcomed guests to the Churchill Dining Room in the House of Commons to look back over the last ten years, which have provided both hope and concern for supporters of microfinance, as well as looking to the future to discuss how microfinance and financial inclusion can help achieve progress on global development after the expiry of the Millenium Development Goals in 2015.

The event was addressed by Annette Brooke MP, who discussed her interest in microfinance and reiterated her support for financial inclusion as a powerful tool for relieving poverty. Looking back in particular to 2005, the UN Year of Microcredit, she reflected that the APPG had made a real contribution to the sector and that she continued to be inspired by stories of people whose lives had been changed by access to microfinance services.

She was followed by Dr Ajaz Khan representing the event's sponsors CARE International UK, who spoke about his experiences working in microfinance around the world and warned of the risks associated with a sector that has sometimes forgotten its mission and failed to protect consumers from unfair business practices. He also spoke of the need to diversify the range of financial products available, in order to move away from credit-only approaches towards savings and insurance. [The text of Dr Khan's speech can be read here]

Closing the speeches, newly-elected Co-Chair of the APPG Stephen Lloyd MP spoke about his own belief in the power of financial inclusion. Mr Lloyd made reference to his own background in Kenya, which he acknowledged had been priveleged but which he also felt had given him an appreciation for the debilitating effects of poverty. Microfinance, he said, was transformational because it gave disadvantaged people a platform for building better futures for themselves. It was important, he added, for leaders to consider inclusive finance as a powerful tool for poverty relief during the formulation of post-2015 development goals, and Prime Minister Cameron and the other members of the UN High Level Panel should keep microfinance in their thoughts as they work to formulate a new set of targets.

Photos from the reception can be viewed here.


'Risk and Reward: driving social performance through microfinance investments'

Wednesday 9th May, 4-6pm

The APPG's 2011 inquiry report 'Helping or Hurting? What role for microfinance in the fight against poverty' identified the crucial role that investors play in shaping the microfinance field. The report argued that 'Investors must recognise that investing in microfinance does not always automatically mean the investment is socially responsible. Where they wish to invest in a socially responsible manner they should ensure that sufficient information and research is produced by the MFI or fund in order to judge the social impact of the investment.' Specific recommendations were developed for the UK Department for International Development and for CDC, the UK's government's arms-length investment fund for low-income countries.

In order to explore the role of investors further and to contribute towards the implementation of the report's recommendations, the APPG held a roundtable event with investors in microfinance from across the spectrum, including government departments, development finance institutions, banks, microfinance investment vehicles and charitable investment funds.

A summary of the discussion during the event can be downloaded here. The APPG will continue to push investors to take practical steps to improve the impact that their investments have on the sector. For further information please contact the APPG Coordinator at [email protected].


'Women are useful to microfinance: how can we make microfinance more useful to women?'

Wednesday 7th March 2012, 2-3pm

To mark the week of International Women's Day, the APPG held a meeting addressed by Dr Linda Mayoux, a leading expert on gender and social development, and Inez Murray, Vice-President of Women's World Banking, which is the world's only microfinance network with a focus on women. Full notes can be read here.

The traditional image of microfinance is of small loans given to poor female entrepreneurs in the developing world. Microfinance institutions have targeted women clients for a variety of reasons: for those institutions that aim to alleviate poverty women are an obvious target group because they are disproportionally likely to be poor; but in addition women as a group have better repayment rates in microfinance, and for many institutions the choice to focus on women is pragmatic. While it is clear that women are good for microfinance institutions, it is not always quite so clear that microfinance is helping women as much as it could be, as we highlighted in our report 'Helping or hurting: what role for microfinance in the fight against poverty'.

Linda Mayoux's presentation can be downloaded here. Inez Murray's presentation can be downloaded here.

Linda drew on her 2011 paper for the Microcredit Summit Campaign, which argued that women are not the problem, they are the norm - and if the microfinance sector is not benefitting them then it is not serving its purpose. Both presenters argued that the sector has been astonishingly gender-blind, particularly in the context of increasing commercialisation and the financial sustainability model.

However, they also gave examples of strategies that can be taken to build gender empowerment into microfinance organisations and products, including Linda's 'Gender Action Learning System', which she argues can be used as an excellent basis for incorporating gender into Social Performance Management systems in microfinance. There is a clear need to improve on the monitoring and accountability of gender empowerment in microfinance, as current indicators are often limited to simply measuring how many clients are female - which doesn't tell us much about empowerment. Both speakers also felt that this can be compatible with the financial sustainability agenda, but what is needed is political will, leadership, and upfront investment.



AGM 2011

On 13 July 2011 the APPG held its 2011 AGM. The meeting featured a discussion of the APPG's activities over the past year and of future plans for 2011-12. Notes of the meeting are available here. A document reviewing the APPG's activities in 2010-11 is also available here.

At the AGM an election for the officer positions within the AGM was held. The following Parliamentarians were elected:

Harriett Baldwin MP (West Worcestershire, Conservative)
Lord Boateng (Labour)
Annette Brooke MP (Mid Dorset and North Poole, Liberal Democrat

Stephen Lloyd MP (Eastbourne, Liberal Democrat)
Mary Macleod MP (Brentworth and Isleworth, Conservative)

For further details please contact the APPG Coordinator, Julia Modern at [email protected]


Launch of the APPG on Microfinance's inquiry report 'Helping or hurting: what role for microfinance in the fight against poverty?'

The APPG held the launch of 'Helping or hurting: what role for microfinance in the fight against poverty?' on 8 June 2011. The report is the culmination of our 7-month inquiry into the impact of microfinance on poverty. The launch event was chaired by Madeleine Bunting, Columnist and Associate Editor for the Guardian, and featured presentations from the report's authors, Anton Simanowitz of the Institute of Development Studies, and Dr Susan Johnson of the University of Bath.

For further details please contact Julia Modern APPG coordinator Julia Modern at [email protected]


Oral evidence sessions for the APPG inquiry into the impact of microfinance on poverty

Wednesday 23 March 2011


Professor Thankom Arun, Lancashire Business School
Dr Kate Maclean, King's College London
Professor Paul Mosley, University of Sheffield

Notes from the session are available here.

Tuesday 29 March 2011


Rosalind Copisarow
Maude Massu, CARE International
Roger Witcombe, Opportunity International

Claire Innes, Department for International Development

Notes from the session are available here.

Monday 4 April 2011


Sukhwinder Arora, Oxford Policy Management
Marcus Fedder, Agora Microfinance
Chris Bold, CGAP

Notes from the session are available here.


17 November 2010: How can microinsurance help the poor weather life's storms? (Joint meeting with the APPGs on Agriculture & Food for Development and Climate Change)

Issues such as climate change present significant problems to the world’s poor, particularly those engaged in agricultural production. Fluctuations in the environment, combined with the rise of large scale environmental disasters, has led to the introduction of microinsurance schemes. These are aimed at providing a safety net to individuals who would ordinarily be forced to hardships, such as drought, alone.

Kerry McCarthy MP chaired this event, which was jointly held by the APPG’s on ‘Microfinance’, ‘Climate Change’ and ‘Agriculture & Food for Development’. Richard Leftley, CEO and President of MicroEnsure, and Alan Doran, Business finance Adviser for Oxfam, were invited to speak about the microinsurance products that their organisations have introduced and how these schemes have progressed and adapted to the needs of their clients.

The presentations offered a compelling look at the possibilities for this area of microfinance. The speakers also acknowledged challenges to the model, such as the difficulties of engaging with the population and the difficulty of assessing damages and risks. However they also spoke about the role that new technologies can play in addressing these issues and helping microinsurance schemes to reach the poor people who could benefit from them.

The event was well attended by both academics and practitioners who contributed significantly to the content of the event with questions on issues such as; insurance premium price fluctuations; combined microinsurance/microcredit products; and the implications of remote sensing innovations for the collection of agronomic data. It was clear from this event that this is a growing area of microfinance and one that could have potential for reducing the potential impact, of climate fluctuations, on the world’s poor.

(Download Richard Leftley's presentation)

(Download Alan Doran's presentation)


19 October 2010: The Microfinance Debate
Microfinance has been hailed as an effective and sustainable tool to combat poverty. However, recent studies have challenged the extent to which microfinance can lift people out of poverty and whether it is really having the impact that its supporters propose.

The APPG invited a panel of eminent speakers to discuss this critical issue and debate the question: Is Microfinance an Effective Tool for Helping Eradicate Poverty? The panel of debaters was composed of two teams with Dr Martin Greely from the Institute of Development Studies and Tom Sanderson, Director of Five Talents UK debating in support of microfinance and Dr Milford Bateman from the Overseas Development Institute and Professor Malcolm Harper, Cranfield School of Management, arguing against the motion.

Almost 100 members of the public, including members of the Houses of Parliament, academics, private investors, representatives of international organisations and microfinance institutions, attended making this the biggest event the APPG has hosted to date. 

If you missed the debate or would like to listen again, you can download a recording of the event here. A summary of the arguments made by each speaker as well as interventions from the audience is available to download here.

At the end of the event, the vast majority voted in support of microfinance as an effective tool or helping eradicate poverty. However, the opposing team also made very strong arguments which have challenged the APPG to push for better evidence about what works and how to deliver microfinance that has a lasting impact on the poor. It was clear from both sides that microfinance now has many different guises and the APPG therefore needs to do further work to identify which types of microfinance are effective for helping to alleviate poverty and warrant further support from the UK Government and other donors.


July 2010: Annual General Meeting
The APPG on Microfinance held its first meeting of the new Parliament on 6 July 2010 where Officers of the group were appointed. Annette Brooke, MP for Mid Dorset and North Poole was re-elected as the Chair of the group, while three other Members of Parliament were elected as Officers of the APPG including Vice Chair Kerry McCarthy, MP for Bristol East; Vice Chair Stephen Lloyd, MP for Eastbourne and Willingdon; and Treasurer Robert Syms, MP for Poole.

Our guest speaker, Wilson Moleni, from Opportunity International Bank of Malawi (OIBM) explained his views on how microfinance has transformed lives in Malawi through OIBM’s efforts to scale down the banking model and adapt it to meet the needs of poor people. The first branch was set up in Lilongwe in 2003 and was funded by DFID. Now, more than 277,000 people are reached with savings and loan products across Malawi. Mr Moleni showed a short video which exemplified OIBM’s operations and achievements.

Aaron Oxley, Director of RESULTS UK gave an overview of the field of microfinance, highlighting some of the challenges currently faced by the sector as well as many of the opportunities. He mentioned that microfinance organisations have proven that it is possible to serve the poor successfully whilst being sustainable and highlighted the need for more public-private partnerships to build on the relative strengths of the different sectors. Aaron stated that we need to acknowledge that the profit motive is firmly imbedded in the microfinance industry and the APPG must press to ensure there is still an adequate focus on providing financial services to the poor as a tool to assist them in their escape from poverty. He also proposed that the APPG could look at how it can support innovation around technology and new product lines in microsavings and insurance. To see Aaron's presentation click here.

The meeting was concluded by a Q&A session and a debate on the issues raised by the speakers as well as more general microfinance trends. A more detailed summary of the meeting and participant list is available here.


December 2009: Harnessing the power of Microfinance in Africa: challenges and opportunities

The APPG held a high level roundtable meeting bringing Parliamentarians together with experienced microfinance professionals and academics to discuss the promise and challenges of microfinance in Africa.

Francis Pelekamoyo, former Governor of the Reserve Bank of Malawi and current Chairman of Opportunity International (Africa) opened the discussion, followed by a presentation from Gareth Thomas MP, Minister of State for International Development, on a new capacity-building fund for microfinance in Africa that is being designed by the Department for International Development (DFID).

Participants at the meeting advised DFID to build social goals such as poverty-reduction and empowerment into the structure of the new fund. For more details you can read the minutes of the meeting.


September 2009: Annette Brooke visits India with Five Talents

Annette Brooke MP, Chair of the APPG on Microfinance,  was invited by Five Talents to visit microfinance programmes in Chennai. She reported that the trip was "one of the most interesting and informative" she had ever been on. Annette visited a number of villages that were badly affected by the 2004 tsunami and saw how groups of women support each other to save money and use small loans to support income-generating activities. For more information about the trip, click here.


July 2009: AGM

The AGM of the APPG was held, at which the officers of the group were re-elected, and the group's finances and future business were discussed. Minutes of the meeting are available here.


April 2009: 100 million of the world's poorest reached with microcredit

In 1997 the Microcredit Summit Campaign launched a campaign to provide key financial services to over 100 million of the world's poorest people. On 27th January 2009, it announced that this groundbreaking milestone had been reached, with over 106 million people recieving microcredit by 2007.

Sam Daley-Harris, Founder and Director of the Campaign addressed a meeting of the APPG to discuss this remarkable achievment.


November 2008: Round-table discussion on the commercialisation of microfinance

The APPG on Microfinance/Microcredit held its first roundtable breakfast meeting bringing together leading microfinance specialists from the commercial and social sector, representatives from DFID,  key academics and Parliamentarians. Participants at the event discussed whether or not the growing commercialisation of microfinance is threatening to undermine its original social vision.


July 2008: Microfinance in the Islamic World

The APPG on Microfinance/Microcredit held a meeting to discuss Microfinance in the Islamic world. To lead the discussions we were joined by Sir Iqbal Sacranie and Abyan Ahmed of Muslim Aid and by Mufti Barkatulla and Fezal Khan Boodhoo, both experts on Islamic Financial Institutions.

To see the excellent powerpoint presentation given by Abyan Ahmed please click here. For accompanying explanatory notes, click here.


April 2008: Microfinance: a commercial or social endeavour?

The APPG's first meeting of 2008 looked at whether the growing commercialisation of microfinance is threatening to undermine its original social vision. See minutes here


Annette Brooke, Joshua Perry, Deborah Fry, Julia Morgan, Isebail Mackinnon

March 2007: Females First: the impact of microfinance on gender equality

Joint meeting with the APPG on Sex Equality looked at case studies from three continents. See minutes here.


January 2007: Microfinance in the context of globalisation: making change work for the poor

See minutes here.


October 2006: Challenging the Frontiers of Poverty Reduction: targeting the ultra Poor
Joint meeting with the Microfinance Club of London.



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